New Chair for London Diocesan Board for Schools
“In stature grows the heavenly child with death before his eyes.” So goes the old hymn for these days in which the church considers the growth and infancy of the Christ child. S Luke tells us that He “grew in stature before God and man.” Helping our children to grow in stature is a great task of the church, and our schools are important as we seek to discharge what is a welcome duty. It is well said that “education is what is left behind when everything you once learned has been forgotten,” and to grow in stature is not simply to increase in height or to excel in the sterile accumulation of knowledge, but to grow in the sight of God and man. The more than 50,000 children educated in our schools are not simply in utilitarian “factories for learning” whose best outcome is that they should be prepared to become economically successful, but are being prepared for that growth in stature which true education gives.
We all owe a huge debt of thanks to The Venerable Stephan Welch who stepped down from chairmanship of the London Diocesan Board for Schools at the end of December.
Ably supported by Inigo Woolf and Liz Wolverson, he has worked with the Board over the last 10 years; a period in which we have seen a massive expansion in the number and quality of our schools. Stephan and the Board have negotiated the introduction of Free schools and the expansion of the Academies’ programme with care and skill. We thank them all.
The recent report into the place of Religion in Public Life once again poses questions about the role of Faith schools. Thanks to the hard work of teachers and governors, of children and support staff, Church of England schools in the diocese of London have a fine reputation for the quality of their education, and the health of their community. The task of the next three years is to build on this foundation, and more clearly to articulate for those who question us the reasons we are in education, and the special quality of our schools.
Within the Church as well it would help to be able to speak with clarity about how we teach wisdom about eternal things alongside knowledge of that which is passing; how we offer a literacy which is deeper than mere “religious knowledge;” how we provide for children and adults a schooling in common life which goes beyond uncomprehending “respect” for those with whom no true community has been forged. We must be clear about how our schools are properly part of our mission, and where the vision of the Board fits with Capital Vision 2020, and especially our aim to double the number of young people with whom we are in touch. As London grows in population, we must wrestle with questions of how our schools can help us in the urgent work of establishing new churches in new communities and reaching more deeply with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in established places, without losing their deserved reputation for openness to people of all faiths and none.
I am pleased that after the consultation with the Board Members the new Chairman of the Board will be The Venerable Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London. He comes with a wide experience of schools, having served on governing bodies of church and non-church schools, including nine years as Chair of Governors of the largest primary school in Haringey. He currently serves on the Council of an independent secondary school where he leads on safeguarding and wellbeing, and is a trustee of a secondary Academy. As the London Diocesan Board for Schools is re-forged for new tasks in a new triennium, we look forward to continuing to work with our schools so that wisdom in all things may increase.
Image: The Ven Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London, with The Ven Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Associate Archdeacon on the occasion of their commissioning by the Bishop of London.