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Educate for a new, uncertain future, Welby tells schools

30 September 2016


Performing for an assembly: Year 6 pupils from Braunston C of E Primary School, near Daventry, who used What If in RE and History lessons

Performing for an assembly: Year 6 pupils from Braunston C of E Primary School, near Daventry, who used What If in RE and History lessons

CHURCH schools must begin educating children for a world where economies are stagnating, jobs are being lost to robots, and religious violence is inescapable, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

The one million pupils who attend Church of England schools needed their teachers to prepare them for an increasingly uncertain future, Archbishop Welby told a conference of C of E head teachers at Coventry Cathedral last week.

He was speaking at the Anglican Academy and Secondary School Heads Conference to promote a new vision statement from the Church’s Education Office, “Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good”, and to sketch out the challenges ahead for church schools.

The C of E’s unique approach to schooling was needed now more than ever, in the aftermath of Brexit and with rising levels of religious violence, he said.

“The Church must educate for a context where the economy has at least a 50-50 chance of not being the rapid-growth-and-employment kind of economy that has been the aspiration since the 1950s and the reality for much of that time,” Archbishop Welby warned. “It’s going to be very, very challenging.”

Many voters had backed Leave in the referendum because they felt that the Establishment had failed them and they lacked any opportunities; and they weren’t necessarily wrong, he said.

“In some circumstances, the vote to leave was a recognition that the systems, economic and political, that people were told to place their trust in have not benefited everyone in the way we were led to believe, and that includes schools and the Church.”

A new industrial revolution was coming that could destroy millions of jobs through automation and computers, inequality was rising, and populations were ageing, the Archbishop said. How well were C of E schools preparing the children in their care to survive and even thrive in such a world, he asked.

Rising religious violence meant that, for the first time since the Wars of Religion in the 17th century, addressing faith-inspired conflict was also inescapable for educators. Again, the C of E’s vision for schools was perfectly placed to speak into this context, Archbishop Welby argued.

“We need to shift the current mind-set — in education policy and public policy more broadly — around religion from a ‘prevent’ narrative to a ‘vision’ narrative. We have to offer an alternative vision that is more convincing. And where do we find a better vision than in the gospel of Jesus Christ? That’s where you come in.”

But while church schools could offer deep religious literacy and a better theology than jihadism, they must not become “cosy clubs for Anglicans”, he said.

There was growing suspicion around faith schools, and head teachers of such schools should be alert to this, even as statistics showed that C of E schools were selecting less and less on the criteria of faith, he said. Church schools must strive to be a “blessing for every child in the community they serve”.

Nevertheless, the C of E was determined to seize the opportunity and ensure that many of the Government’s proposed new free schools were church schools, Archbishop Welby said.

“Be confident in Christ . . . and let us aim to be so successful that we can’t do everything that is asked of us by local and national government,” he suggested. “There is a prophetic and potentially transformative role for the Church of England to play here.”


New way of teaching virtue has positive results A PILOT scheme to help Church of England schools build character while teaching their pupils has been hailed a success, writes Tim Wyatt.

The What If Learning programme was developed by the C of E’s Education Office and Canterbury Christ Church University as a way of embedding key Christian virtues in the curriculum of church schools.

In the pilot, 20 schools from four dioceses trialled the approach by using material that taught about hospitality and sought to teach students how to “live well together with others as preparation for life in the diverse society that constitutes modern Britain”.

Rather than simply add classes on virtue or character to the curriculum, What If Learning trains teachers to use different methods and styles to express the importance of hospitality, or any other virtue, during ordinary lessons.

The pilot, which was funded by the Department for Education and the Jerusalem Trust, involved classes being prepared in 14 different subjects for all ages, from the under-fives to 14-year-olds, to inculcate hospitality in them.

Among the methods used to impress hospitableness on pupils was working in inclusive teams while formulating hypotheses and tests in a science experiment, and the use of drama with children in Year 1 to imagine what it would be like to leave everything and start a new life somewhere else.

In one school in Derby, pupils from Years 5 and 6 organised a thank-you tea for their cleaners and lunch supervisors to show their gratitude.

An independent report assessing the programme found that pupils made fewer negative judgements about each other after the classes and consistently reported that their classmates exhibited more hospitable attributes.

Teachers also told researchers that their pupils demonstrated more hospitableness after the series of classes.

James Townsend, from the C of E’s Education Office, said: “We are delighted with the results. Pupils made more positive assumptions about each other; increased their collaboration, empathy, and respect for diversity; and showed greater perseverance.”

The report endorses What If Learning for use across the C of E’s 4700 schools, arguing that it is better to focus on a specific virtue than vaguely hope to build “good character”.

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