Last week, the first conference for headteachers in the new diocese was held in Harrogate. Many of the heads of the diocese’s 249 church schools came together for a day entitled ‘Bigger, Better, Together’.
Bishop Nick, who was the keynote speaker, thanked the heads for their work, despite the “decades of hammering” they have undergone. He said, “What you do is remarkable, and if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing I’d be a teacher, because you make the biggest difference to a human being. Henry Adams said: ‘A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops’. You, like me, are dealing with the stuff of peoples’ souls. And that’s a high, high calling."
Photo L-R Richard Noake, Kate Coleman, Nick Baines, Nigel Genders
Speaking about church schools in particular, Bishop Nick said, “Fundamental to education is the formation of character; expanding possibilities, enabling the imagination to roam beyond the capabilities thought possible before. Church schools offer something distinctive because we’re not dealing with structures and institutions but people made in the image of God. That’s why every child matters. Every child - no matter how difficult the character - because through the grace of God people don’t have to be trapped in a reputation; there is the freedom for everyone to start again.
“The media sometimes mistakenly refer to our schools as faith schools, but we don’t just teach children of our faith (in fact, some of our schools are 95% Muslim) – church schools exist for the common good."
In relation to the new diocese, he said, “With an area system we have bishops who are much closer to the ground and they put education high on their list of priorities – so please invite them to your schools. Your local church is also there for the school (it’s not the other way round; the school is not there to feed the church)."
Other speakers were Revd Nigel Genders, the CofE’s Chief Education Officer and Revd Dr Kate Coleman, Founder and Co-Director of Next Leadership. Kate Coleman talked about the challenges and pressures headteachers face and she exhorted them to “never lose your sense of conviction about what you do". She added, “My prayer is that you will change the world; one child at a time”.
One head said, "It's been a really encouraging day. It's hugely energising and remotivating to have your work so affirmed and appreciated".