Barnham CEVC Primary: A Church of England School
What is a church school?
What does it mean to be a Church of England school? This is one of the things we have been thinking about over the last few months as we explore the new SIAMS guidelines (Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools).
As a Church of England school, we are tasked with delivering a Christian vision of education – not with delivering a Christian education.
A Christian Vision of Education
The Christian vision of education has, at its heart, Jesus’ promise of ‘life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10). So we seek to educate our children for fullness of life, to work to fulfill their God-given potential, whether they or their family identify with a faith or not, and with special consideration given to those who are disadvantaged.
Each child is to be understood as respectfully and deeply as possible: to be believed in and to be cherished. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said: ‘A Christian school is one in which the entire atmosphere is pervaded by a conviction that there is… something potentially wonderful in everybody’.
Our task as a Church of England school is to deliver an education that seeks human flourishing, so we set academic rigour within a wider framework.
Our School Vision
Our vision for all in our school is to Inspire, Cherish and Believe in each person that they might flourish and fulfil their potential.
Inspire Cherish Believe
We live this out in school like this verse from the Gospel of John 15:5:
Jesus said ‘I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.’
Jesus is the trunk, the heart of our school, with the deepest roots imaginable. Even in a drought, the leaves of the vine are green and the branches grow vigorously, adventurously and eager for life – just like we do!
The vines join together to provide shade and shelter to those who need it. We are all connected and share a belongingness to each other.
Together we produce the most amazing fruits, whether it’s the work in our classrooms or our time in the fields or in our own person.
We are growing the future here in our Farm School, in the beautiful Suffolk countryside - inspiring, cherishing and believing in all of us.
Our vine represents our school family:
We seek to…
Inspire everyone with a lifelong love of learning and a yearning to fulfill their potential, by
Cherish everyone as one who is precious to God, a part of His loving family here in school
Believe in everyone, encouraging them in their own strengths and talents, by
Our Christian ethos and values
Our ethos is strongly influenced by our Christian vision and values and we place these at the heart of everything that we do. We share Bible stories through visits from the local Open the Book team and our RE lessons. We engage fully with the seasons of the church year, going regularly to St Gregory’s church in Barnham. Our daily act of collective worship acts as a heartbeat within the school. It provides opportunities for the entire school family to reflect on God and how He wants us to live today, so that we might be a blessing upon those who share our lives, our communities, our nation and the world.
There are many Christian values, each with its own layers of meaning. We held a fair in the Summer where all the children, staff, governors and parents voted for the values we most wanted to explore and live out daily in school. They are:
‘Compassion’ and ‘sympathy’ have much in common and both are stronger in meaning than simply ‘feeling sorry for’ someone. The words have their roots in the idea of ‘suffering with’ someone, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and experiencing what they experience. This leads to a desire to act, to do something. It is not patronising. It is not about ‘doing good’ from a position of strength or ‘remembering those less fortunate than ourselves’. Compassion requires an act of imagination and humility to share in the lives of others.
Jesus showed compassion towards the ‘harassed and helpless’ crowds (Matthew 9.36) and his works of healing were always prompted by compassion for people’s suffering.
We can hope for good things, but hope is deeper than that. Where hope is lost there is despar and brokenness. Hope generates energy and sustains us through difficult times. For some people, hope is so strong that it inspires self-sacrifice to turn hope into reality.
Christian hope is grounded in the character of God. Often, in the Psalms, the writer says to God: ‘My hope is in you’. It is a hope rooted in the love and faithfulness of God. Hope is not wishful thinking but a firm assurance that God can be relied upon. It does not remove the need for ‘waiting upon the Lord’ but there is underlying confidence that God is a ‘strong rock’ and one whose promises can be trusted.
Hope is not always spontaneous or easy. There is work to be done. As well as trusting God, we have to develop qualities of steadfastness in our own character.
Forgiveness is what God's all about. Jesus was uncompromising in his command to forgive. Forgive, he said, ‘seventy times seven’ (Matthew 18:21). In other words, forgive and keep on forgiving without limit. Forgiveness was at the heart of everything he did and is at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer.
It's more than just saying 'sorry'. It's about making amends and doing better next time.
Seeing the world as God’s creation underpins the way we approach everything in life, seeing it as a gift and not as a right. And in receiving those gifts our response is to be thankful.
It is a joyfulness that erupts into praise.
Friendship is an undisputed value in our society, with children often spending more time with their friends than with family.
Jesus tells stories of the heavenly banquet to which all are invited. The barriers between people are broken down in a loving community around God and Jesus had stern words to say to those who refused to recognise that all are included in this community of friendship.
Trust, feeling comfortable in each other’s company, being able to share joys and sorrows are all features of friendship and these are things of immense value. True friendship enables each person to grow and ensures that the unique individuality of each person is recognised. All this echoes the value placed by God on the preciousness of each person.
When thinking about ‘justice’, some people think first about giving wrongdoers the punishment they deserve. But justice also means giving all people - particularly the poor and oppressed - what it is right and fair for them to have: life, health, freedom and dignity. It is about acting out of a concern for what is right and seeing right prevail. It is about social justice, especially for those who suffer most and are least able to protect themselves.
Justice is not about a culture which encourages everyone to insist on their own rights at the expense of others. It is about a community that knows that everyone’s well-being is bound up with that of everyone else.
A commitment to justice leads to fierce opposition to injustice in whatever form it may be found. Justice is a pre-requisite of peace: without justice there can be no peace.