Education and schools seem somehow to have always been a part of my life. With my parents involved in different ways in schools, it was what we talked about as I grew up. Since ordination, like many clergy, I have been involved in schools, as a governor, leading worship and answering the extraordinary questions children ask – why, for example, does the Virgin Mary always wear blue?
In this diocese that connection with schools has continued. I Chair the Diocesan Board of Education, responsible for our engagement with our 116 Church Schools, and I make visits to schools meeting with children and staff, supporting their work and celebrating their achievements. I am also privileged to serve as a member of the Council of the University of Gloucestershire with our long and proud tradition of teacher training still very much part of our work today.
All of this of course ties in so closely to our LIFE Together vision, weaving through our five focus areas not least in our investment in young people. Through our Church Schools we have been helping form and shape the lives of young people for hundreds of years and we continue to do so. Through our schools we serve the needs of all young people and their families in the community, not just those who attend church, promoting high academic standards, a thirst for knowledge and with this a delight in life itself, the whole of life, social and spiritual as well as academic.
This holistic approach, academic, social, spiritual is I believe especially crucial at this time. There is a danger that education can be seen as simply instrumental. In universities success is judged by graduate outcomes, essentially the jobs that graduates obtain, and these are valued in significant part by the income they attract, and this approach can so easily spread to our schools. That we are prepared for the world of work is, of course, essential, we need to earn a living and support ourselves and those who we care for, but life is more than just this. Life in all its fullness is a delight and a care for creation, it is music and the arts, it is science and creativity, engineering, sport…. Together in all these ways we begin to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth of life itself. For those of us who seek to follow Christ it is by living, fully, that we find the love that surpasses knowledge and fills us with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3). This is a knowledge and a fullness that inspires us to share the vision of life as something for all, something we want to share, we want all to experience.
Bishop Rachel and I are both deeply thankful for our schools in this diocese, our church schools, and all places of education and learning. They deserve our thanks, our support, encouragement and care and a vision for their purpose, which of course has academic excellence as its foundation, but so much more, a vision of life lived in abundance.