September is a time for all things new: new students, new timetables, new colleagues and new challenges. The launch of a further 18 new free schools was announced this week, to go with the 52 already set to open their doors to new students for the first time this term. Even Ofsted seems to have a new interest – in behaviour, calling for a grammar school ethos, the banning of mobile phones and more heads who are ‘battlers and bruisers’.
Christians in Education is also no stranger to new things – this week saw the launch of the new FOR PARENTS area of the website. What response can parents make as the government adopts an increasingly quasi-parental position in education? How can Christian parents offer a faith perspective to their children and to their children’s schools, based on biblical principles? A series of twelve articles offer answers to these questions, informing parents about some of the current issues in education and its underpinning ideologies. They also offer a Christian perspective for a partnership that will enable children to plot a pathway through the school years and empower parents to express their faith in the particular context of their children’s school.
Our partner organisation Transforming Governing kicks off the academic year with a brand new website – if you are a Christian who is, or who is thinking of becoming, a governor of a school in England, this would be a worthwhile port of call. Becoming a governor is a key way to be a positive Christian influence for change in schools, so do take a look at the website and think about whether this is something you could do.
Sadly, for many, there will be no new school year. According to a UNICEF report published this week, war will stop 13 million children from going to school. This may be because their teachers are too terrified to go to work, because their schools are too often attacked, or because the buildings are needed as refugee shelters.
And yet some ideologies never change. While our TV screens are filled with images of migrant people fleeing war torn countries in search of a chance to live, our government introduced a new post-16 maths course this week as an alternative A level. Based on personal finance, it will teach students how to split the bill, deal with currency exchange and work out interest. It is entirely about maximising self as a consumer in a materialist society. The course apparently contains nothing about contributing to the common good, about sharing or about giving to others less fortunate than ourselves. The contrast couldn’t be more obscene – learn how to source the best exchange rate for your next holiday while your fellow humans drown in that same Mediterranean Sea where you plan to soak up the sun. Consumerism or compassion? It’s quite clear what ideology underpins the course.
I ended the last school year by reminding you of the thought in Isaiah 62:3 – ‘You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God’. You are so precious to God that He holds you continually in His hand. As you embark on the endurance test of the next academic year, ponder on another verse from the prophet Isaiah: ‘but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint’ (Isaiah 40:31).
As you hope in the Lord, may you soar on wings like eagles above the challenges of school or college life. As you hope in the Lord for yourself, your community and our world, may you renew your strength and run without growing weary through the year ahead.