SO MUCH is changing in
education at present, it feels as if we are having to do a refit on
an ocean liner while it is still at sea. Normally, you would expect
a good time in dry dock.
The result is that
schools are having to attend to big tasks in nautical engineering,
as well as changing the menus in the dining room. What this means
for leadership is that there may seem to be little time for the big
question: where are we going?
The 19th-century educator
Dr Thomas Arnold came to lead a Christian school at a time when
edu-cation in many schools was chaotic. It was obvious to him that
he needed a clear vision of what the product of a Christian school
should look like. I wonder if we should develop a similar clarity
of vision today.
My guess is that a young
person emerging from a church school should be seen to have a
rounded mental, emotional, spiritual, and social intelligence that
enables them to live creatively in the community, because they have
had some kind of life-enhancing encounter with the story of Jesus
MENTAL or academic
intelligence is an obvious goal. Every child made in the image of
God should have the opportunity to fulfil all the potential that
lies within him or her. Christian schools need to be as committed
as Michael Gove to raising standards of achievement.
The effectiveness of our
schools and academies now rests with us. It cannot be palmed off on
local au-thorities. If we care about our chil-dren, we must care
about their achievement.
This means new
partnerships and alliances, and a golden opportunity for our
diocesan boards of education to take their capacity to a new level,
and to engage positively with schools outside the normal church
Emotional intelligence is
a harder skill to grow. How do you teach young people to be more
aware of the dynamics of their own emotional life, with all its
tricks and puzzles, as a springboard to greater awareness of
others, and how they tick?
Many schools and
academies have well-developed one-to-one mentor-ing schemes and
pastoral support to help young people reflect on, among other
things, their emotional "self-and-other awareness". It is tender
but essential work.
potentially, is learned through the whole life of a school, just as
the name "Blackpool" runs through a whole stick of rock in my home
town. It grows not just through collective worship and RE, but
through the spiritual dimension implicit in every subject,
LORD RUNCIE, the former
Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote: "One of the tasks of a church
school is about forming people who, however aca-demically and
technically skilful, are not reduced to embarrassment by the great
questions of life and death, meaning and truth." That alone is a
huge task in a culture that is too used to reductionism and
Social intelligence is
developed in community, which means that a Christian school or
academy needs to be a community of a particular character, one
rooted in the narra-tive of Jesus of Nazareth.
Generally, we remember
our social interactions much longer than our conceptual learning;
so how we live together, value diversity, handle conflict, laugh at
ourselves, and encourage each other will shape our later lives much
more than we sus-pect.
This, I suggest, is what
our church schools are about: shaping lives with this rich, rounded
intelligence. A tree is recognised by its fruits, and a school by
its emerging pupils.
The details might be
different, but I think Dr Arnold would have approved.
The Rt Revd John
Pritchard is Bishop of Oxford. This is an edited version of an
address he will give to the Association of Anglican Secondary
School Heads this weekend.