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Bishop Steven answers pupils Reinspired Big Questions

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BISHOP Steven was given a place in the Mastermind chair at a recent REinspired session for primary school children at Lower Early Baptist Church in Reading.

“We have been working with the Year 6 children of Hawkedon Primary School since they were in Foundation,” says Julia Jones, Project Director of REinspired.  “All of our sessions meet the needs of the RE syllabus. But this session is different as it is the children who set the questions and we then design the session and activities accordingly.”

Some of the pupil’s asked questions about when we die. Leaders introduced the topic using the story of Water bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney which led to deeper discussions in their small groups.  The pupils were given an opportunity to respond by using art and craft.

Pupils gathered together as one group and Bishop Steven settled himself down into the big ‘Mastermind’ chair.  With two minutes on the clock, how many questions did the bishop answer?  He managed to answer 11 fully and successfully before the bell went.  Some of the questions included:

“What do you do when you wake up?”

With a smile he answered, “I get out of bed, have a coffee and I pray.”

“Will Jesus always be with you?”

The Bishop firmly said, “Yes, including in death and beyond death.”

“If God is real why is He not helping people in need?”

Thoughtfully, the Bishop answered, “I think God is helping people in need a lot.  God calls us to help these people and has given all we need to do so.”

The pupils then had the opportunity of questioning the Bishop directly.  They eagerly put their hands up.  One of the questions was:

“If you could change anything in the world what would it be?”

Bishop Steven answered, “It would be war and conflict.  It’s terrible when it happens to people but when its caused by other people I think it’s the worst.”

As always, our teachers are invited to feedback their comments on every session.  Today the Hawkedon teachers reflected, “REinspired have organised this session well with a good pace.  We were happy with the delivery, setup and safety of the session.  It covered useful aspects of PSMSC (Personal, Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural). The children were engaged and thoroughly enjoyed questioning the Bishop.”

REinspired based at St Nicolas Church, Earley, is an ecumenical group of Christians in Earley and East Reading delivering RE sessions to schools. We started 15 years ago when one of our primary schools asked a local minister for help with their RE.  The Churches Together in Earley and East Reading team embraced the opportunity and REinspired was born.  Our aim is to meet the need of the locally agreed RE syllabus and bring RE to life. Having started with one class in one school, REinspired now supports every class in all 11 primary schools as well as two secondary schools.  When we started we had dreams of meeting and working with ‘every child, every year, every school’.  15 years later that dream is a reality.

 

Educational partnership blessed by the Bishop of Oxford

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft blessed a new partnership between the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) at Wantage and the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST). At a ceremony in CSMV’s St Mary Magdalene Chapel yesterday, representatives of the two organisations signed a commitment to co-operate in supporting education in the Diocese of Oxford.

From left, Alastair Hunter, Chair of Trustees at CSMV, Kathy Winrow, Chair of ODST, Bishop Steven and Sister Stella.

The covenant offers ODST an additional office, meeting and conference space at St Mary’s Convent in Wantage. The alliance is bringing back into use a house belonging to CSMV as refurbished flats for new teachers working with ODST. They will be available at a significantly low rent. This is part of the of the Community’s charitable aims of supporting the education of children. The Sisters of CSMV have made a significant contribution to education since the Community’s founding over 150 years ago. Bishop Steven, making his first visit to the Community will be present at the signing.

“The Sisters are delighted to be able to offer accommodation to ODST,” says Sister Stella, Sister in Charge of the Community. “Their presence and their work help underline the importance of high quality education for all in our society, something the Community has worked for throughout its long history.”

Speaking on behalf of ODST, Chair of Trustees Kathy Winrow said: “The housing for new teachers marks the start of an innovative partnership between ODST and St Mary’s Convent. As we work together, for the benefit of young people and staff in the Trust our hope is that we are able to support excellence in education.”

A new reception area forms part of the plans for the future of St Mary’s Convent. A planning application for this exciting development will be made later in the year.

This is the latest in a series of developments underlining the CSMV continuing commitment to Wantage. Last year the Sisters took the decision to stay at the Convent. The partnership with OSDT follows the recent announcement that later this year the Vale Academy Trust’s central staff team is to move into office space on the convent site from its current base at King Alfred’s Academy.

 

New Church led schools trust aims to work for excellence in education in Reading

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A PARTNERSHIP between an ‘outstanding’ Church school and its neighbour that had previously been judged by Ofsted as failing led to the formation of a new Multi Academy Trust.

When New Town Primary School in Reading was placed in special measures by Ofsted, the local authority asked for support from St John’s CE Primary School, which is nearby. Angharad Brackstone, the Headteacher of St John’s, became Executive Headteacher of both schools. She led a joint staff-team which has worked to see St John’s remain outstanding while New Town is now out of special measures and is continuing to improve. The leadership of New Town school was judged good at its recent inspection.

The success of the partnership has spearheaded the launch of the brand new Royal County of Berkshire Schools Trust. The new trust, with strong links to the Diocese of Oxford, (the Church of England for Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire) launches today.

It is based on the successful model of the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) which launched in 2012 and now boasts 18 schools. Like them, RCBST will help schools pool resources to provide the best possible education to pupils. It will also continue to secure some support services from Reading Borough Council and to draw on the expertise and experience at the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education which is responsible for more than 284 Church schools serving a total of 60,000 pupils.

Anne Davey, Diocesan Director of Education, said: “We were delighted to see the success of the joint working between these two schools in Reading. We hope this is the start of another successful Multi Academy Trust that will help us to offer an excellent, inclusive education to more children of all faiths and none.”

David Langshaw, Chair of Governors, said: “This is really good news for both schools as it allows us to continue working together to provide a great education for the children in our neighbourhood. Our partnership has shown that we work very well together and we are looking forward to continuing with this work.”

Angharad said: “Becoming part of RCBST is great news for our community. It will enable our schools to go from strength to strength allowing the partnership between New Town and St John’s to continue to develop and flourish.”

 

 

 

Christ Church: quite a classroom

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CHILDREN are taking time out from the classroom to learn about the rich history of Oxford’ s Christ Church Cathedral. Jackie Holderness explains what teachers and pupils can expect when they visit.

In January I was appointed as Christ Church Cathedral’s new Education Officer and I feel very blessed to have one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the diocese as my “classroom”.
Although it is one of the country’s smallest cathedrals, Christ Church is a vibrant centre of prayer, discovery, learning and hospitality for its college community, the city and the 2.2 million people in the diocese.

Youngsters lie down to admire the Cathedral’s ceiling. Photo: KT Bruce

Youngsters lie down to admire the Cathedral’s ceiling. Photo: KT Bruce

Reflection

A boy from Arnewood School, New Milton, lights a candle. Photo: KT Bruce

 

Its purpose is to support all those who visit and worship there to encounter, enhance and develop a relationship with God. Christ Church has almost half a million visitors every year, many of whom are on Hogwarts or Wonderland trails, but the Cathedral remains a sacred space, where the life of Jesus Christ is remembered and celebrated day by day.
Awe and wonder

Seeing pupils respond to the Cathedral with awe and wonder, and listening to their comments and questions, has convinced me that the Cathedral provides children and young people with a unique opportunity to explore their own spirituality, and discover more about Christian belief and ministry. I wholeheartedly share, therefore, Rowan Williams’s conviction that, “Cathedrals are a perfect setting for enquiring about, engaging with and sharing the Christian faith…”

Interacting with the tradition and worship

For several years, Christ Church has offered schools tours and workshops which supplement classroom learning. Cathedrals are immensely rich learning resources, and teachers appreciate the power and importance of learning outside the classroom: handling objects; encountering art and music; listening to stories; formulating questions; and discussing key issues.

Working alongside my colleagues and a dynamic team of Education Volunteers, I hope to broaden even further the learning opportunities we can offer pupils. Through interactive and engaging experiences, we aim to help pupils learn more about the traditions and patterns of Christian worship, as they have evolved through history, and as they are developing today. We enable pupils to explore the relationship between their local church, other places of worship and their Cathedral.  At the end of each school visit, we include a short period of reflection. Because most groups may represent differing faiths or none, we attempt to ensure that every individual can take something of spiritual worth and personal value from the experience.

Themed visits

When they visit, primary pupils may dress up as medieval pilgrims to learn about Saint Frideswide, pilgrimage and monastic life or, as Tudor townsfolk, consider the upheavals of the Reformation in the history of church and state. Secondary pupils may choose from a range of options and can even “grill a canon”, posing questions about society, ethics, and issues of worship and belief. Sixth form seminars on specific topics can also be arranged.

New curriculum

We provide a planning template for cathedral visits, based upon Oxfordshire County Council’s newly-launched SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) curriculum, with its Engaging, Enquiring, Exploring, Evaluating, Reflecting and Communication framework. Through our visits, we offer cross-curricular opportunities and we are also involved in an Arts Award outreach programme, run by the County Music Service which focuses on choral singing. The Cathedral is an Arts Award centre and offers support to schools who would like to come to the Cathedral as part of the Arts Award programme.
Christ Church Cathedral has a huge amount to offer anyone who visits it, whatever their age, but we are especially keen to welcome children and young people from across the region to learn more about our wonderful cathedral, its past, present and future.

Geerthi Ahilan, the Year Three teacher at St Ebbe’s CE Primary School in Oxford, said children had been struck by the chairs in the military chapel and the war memorial as well as the activities during their Cathedral visits. She collected quotes from pupils. George, aged eight, said: “At Christ Church we got to act out the story of St Frideswide and it helped us to understand it.” Another child said: “I got to be The Bishop whose clothing was really big. I liked the clothes.”

Geerthi added: “One child remembered that there was only one female named on the war memorial and others went away and researched the names on the chairs in the military chapel. It brought out that curiosity in the children.”

Become an Education Guide

CHRIST Church’s education volunteers and guides make a real and valued difference to the work of the Cathedral.
As the number of schools visiting the Cathedral increases, we need to recruit and train more volunteers to work as Education Guides on an occasional basis (approximately once a month).
Experience of working with children is an advantage, but is not essential. The role involves being a warm, helpful Christian who enjoys interacting with young people and sharing an enthusiasm for the Cathedral.
If you would like to be involved (working with small groups, helping with resources or generally supporting educational activities) please contact Jackie Holderness on jacqueline.holderness@chch.ox.ac.uk or education@chch.ox.ac.uk or call 01865 286003.

The Diocese’s response to the National Society’s Review of Religious Education in Church of England Schools

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Jo Fageant, Principal RE Adviser for the Diocese of Oxford on Making a Difference, the National Society’s review of religious education in Church of England schools. The Oxford Diocesan Board of Education is pleased to receive this report and consider its implications for RE in our schools.

Chair of ODBE, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, said:  “We welcome this report which will support our continuing focus on RE in all schools throughout our as well as the Church of England as a whole. We have increased our RE specialist team with a new part-time adviser having joined us in February of this year. They have studied the report and considered its implications for their work in the variety of school contexts with which they are involved. They are also familiar with the progress of the National Society’s Christianity Project (mentioned in this report) and are looking forward to using this material to develop a more theological approach to study with pupils from Year One.”

I was a member of the team that visited the sixty schools involved in the review.  It was a privilege to meet the RE staff in each of the eight schools I visited and have open conversations which contributed so richly to the evidence used in the report.  I have been with the diocese for almost seventeen years and I have got to know our schools well. I recognise that many of the strengths set out in the review are evident within our own area.  For example, recent SIAMS inspections have highlighted outstanding practice in both Waddesdon and Ranelagh, two of our secondary schools.  Their reports include the following comments which describe aspects of the sort of best practice praised in Making a Difference?

Ranelagh: Teaching and learning across all key stages is outstanding. The theological and enquiry based approach supports deep, thoughtful learning and critical thinking. Learning is structured to enable students to make good progress in lessons, and through units of work. For example, questions are scaffolded using higher order thinking strategies to provide challenges. The impact of continuing professional development provided by the Diocese and National Society has empowered the teachers to develop new approaches to the curriculum.

Waddesdon: Excellent results are the product of outstandingly effective teaching and learning.  RS teachers have high aspirations for every student and work with outstanding dedication and commitment to enable students to realise them. As a result, students relish and enjoy the learning in RS and feel that it not only gives them the confidence to achieve well academically but also to be able to make well informed moral choices.  From Year 7 to Year 13 students have levels of theological literacy and spiritual understanding normally found in older students. The level of discourse on philosophic perspectives on the nature of miracles, exhibited by students in Year 13 is of university standard. This performance is the result of outstandingly skilful teaching which balances challenge, interest, pace and assessment for progress.

Although the review report points to a more mixed picture of RE in primary schools we are aware of some excellent practice evidenced in recent SIAMS reports:

Appleton: All children enjoy the high expectation and opportunities to develop their thinking skills, with support as necessary. For example, older children can discuss ‘are there things that God cannot forgive?’

Reading St Johns: Parents report that their children are keen to share and talk about what they have learnt, which often leads to deep and meaningful conversations at home.

Gerrards Cross: In RE lessons well-structured and challenging discussion, supported by skilled questioning by teachers, promotes excellent spiritual and moral development. Learners say they like debating ‘the big questions’, and a Key Stage 2 class enjoyed thinking up questions for God, e.g. ‘Have you always known the world would turn out like this?’

St Nicolas’ Junior School, Newbury: A hallmark of RE at St Nicolas is using the pupils themselves to speak about their faith and beliefs. Excellent examples include Year Three pupils investigating ‘Does completing The Hajj make a person better’ hot seating a Year 6 pupil whose father had just returned from his Hajj; and Year 6 pupils asking of their Hindu classmates and teacher, ‘Do beliefs in karma help Hindus live a good life?’  They go on to say they have ‘one main question each term in our class and in our weekly RE sessions we always answer a little bit of it and do a big summary at the end of term to share what we’ve learnt’.

Alvescot (Infant): Children are confident and adept at raising questions to explore areas of interest and puzzlement such as the nature of God (“Is God spirit or person or both?” asked one child) and the origins of the universe in recent work on God’s world.

Theale (VC) : Pupils enjoy being challenged and know that they are supported by adults, as well as each other, to achieve academically and personally. This was recognised in an outstanding RE lesson where children were invited to respond to the Easter story through carefully designed activities that led the pupils to explore themes of ‘struggle, suffering, repentance and hope’ deepening their personal understanding and engagement with the story.

High Wycombe: A number of pupils demonstrate very high levels of attainment.  An excellent example is seen in Year 6 lessons where pupils regularly look at the original Greek meaning of words and phrases such as the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus.  Pupils also have the opportunity to reflect on challenging questions.  Different approaches to RE such as Philosophy for Children and Godly Play are well embedded enabling the enquiry approach and philosophical debate to take place.

However, we are not complacent.  Not all our schools have been judged to have outstanding RE and as a team of specialist advisers we know that criticisms included in the RE review apply in some contexts in our diocese.  There are teachers who are not clear about the place and purpose of RE; there is a need to help schools improve their curriculum design and move away, where it happens, from engaging pupils at only a superficial level. There is certainly a considerable amount of work to do to ensure that theological and philosophical enquiry becomes common place.

Encouraging all of this is not new work for diocesan advisers.  For example, in July, ready for the new school year, we published a scheme of work exploring big, open ended questions.  This is available on the here.  Its very careful construction ensures the planning supports schools anywhere in the diocese to deliver their local authority RE syllabus. It embeds a cycle of learning (engage, enquire and explore, evaluate, reflect) which Making a Difference? recognises as effective in supporting good learning.

Making a  Difference? suggests teachers find it difficult to access training in RE. They have often experienced very little in their initial training courses so on-the-job opportunities once they are in schools are important. Each term we organise twelve regional meetings for primary RE coordinators to discuss and learn together. We also provide a course each autumn for relatively new primary school RE subject leaders to help them develop a clear sense of the place and purpose of RE and their own leadership responsibilities. There is also an annual training programme aimed at improving the ways in which RE is taught.  These courses draw on top national speakers and are always exceptionally well received with teachers acknowledging how much they have learned.  However the number of schools identifying this as a priority and enabling teachers to attend is small.  The pressure for training in other areas is always greater.  It is hoped that this year’s conference to be held at the Oxford Belfry Hotel on 24th April will attract at least 80 delegates. There will be a keynote address and workshops enabling teachers to reflect on a number of different strategies for developing children’s thinking skills in RE.  Schools can also invite diocesan advisers to work with them individually or in self-determined clusters to address particular areas for development.

Making a Difference? is an important report highlighting as it does key areas in which improvements need to be made.  It’s great also that it celebrates successes already recognised in schools within our diocese.

Chiltern Hills Academy celebrates after ‘good’ Ofsted report

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STAFF and pupils at the Chiltern Hills Academy are celebrating after the school was judged ‘Good’ in all four categories in its first ever Ofsted report.

The Chesham-based academy, which is sponsored by the Diocese of Oxford, became a specialist design and performing arts college in September 2011.

Children show off their creations during an 'experience day' at Chiltern Hills Academy.

Children show off their creations during an ‘experience day’ at Chiltern Hills Academy.ruary.

The Ofsted report recognises the achievements that the Academy has made, including:

• Chiltern Hills Academy judged “good” in all Ofsted categories

• “Students achieve well”

• The sixth form is “good”

• “Students behave well and feel safe”

• Leadership is effective with “outstanding governance”

• Spiritual moral and social education is “good”

The inspection report comments that: “students make good progress from their differing starting points”. It further states that: “teaching is typically good and sometimes outstanding”. The leadership of the Academy from the Governing body through to the subject leaders was noted as a strength. The report states: “leaders have an incisive and accurate view of the quality of teaching and the areas for further development”. The curriculum it notes is: “well planned and provides a coherent set of courses for students of different aspirations and abilities”. On student welfare and behavior, the report states that, “Students have positive attitudes towards learning and respond well to the Academy’s behaviour management procedures…students are proud of their new Academy”.

The Principal, Kevin Patrick said, “The entire Academy community is celebrating the result of the Ofsted inspection. We truly believe in the work we have been doing and the level of education provided here and I am delighted that it has been officially recognised by Ofsted.

We all knew that the more stringent Ofsted inspection framework was the most robust ever and only our best would do. It was an intense two days meeting the demands of the inspectors. They spoke with students, to staff, to the leadership team. They looked at a range of students’ work and reviewed policies and procedures as well as visiting many lessons. The quality of teaching and support work in classrooms is praised highly in the report. Staff and students alike should feel extremely proud of what has been achieved.

This has been a real team effort and I would just like to extend my thanks to all those staff who are not always visible and who work very hard behind the scenes for the Academy. These include the teaching assistants, site and cleaning team, administrators, technicians, catering staff, finance, HR and IT personnel.”

The Chairman of Governors, Mr Andrew Brown, said: “This Ofsted report confirms the excellent work put in by staff and students and affirms the growing number of parents and students who make Chiltern Hills Academy their preferred choice school at 11 and for sixth form studies. The next time Ofsted visit we expect they will find an ‘Outstanding’ school.

Anne Davey, Director of Education for the Diocese of Oxford, said: “We are thrilled that the report has recognised the excellence of the Academy’s leadership and governance. We are proud of the journey the school has been on and look forward to continuing to support it to make even more improvements and to become the school of choice for all young people in the Chesham community.”

Chiltern Hills Academy, formerly Chesham Park School becane an Academy in September 2011. A £10 million building programme is to be fully completed in September 2013. In April the new sports hall, changing rooms and Sixth Form Centre will be available. The new music rooms, recording studio and practice rooms with a suite of Apple Mac computers were completed as planned in September.

 

Events

Church Schools in Modern Britain

Church of England schools in England have a long and distinguished history and heritage. They pre-date both Local Authorities and Government ‘departments.’ Many of our Church schools have Trust Deeds from the early 19th century and were founded on the premise of providing excellent education which empowers and enables children to rise out of poverty to reach their maximum potential. So what’s changed? In the new landscape of British Values, where do Church of England schools stand today? How can we ensure that staff, pupils and parents understand the Christian character of our schools, in a way which is completely inclusive and welcoming?

This session will help you discover the principles on which your school was originally founded and how in today’s modern Britain, with all its rich diversity and challenge, Church of England schools still have a crucial role in holding to their original vocation. Our schools are in the business of providing an excellent education for children of all faiths and of none, working alongside church and parish in a principle of service to their local community and stakeholders.

We will consider:

  • The original mandate for Church of England schools
  • The ‘values’ question; Christian and British values
  • How to support stakeholders in understanding and upholding the distinctive character of the school
  • How excellent Church schools can and do contribute to transforming communities

This session can also be run as a bespoke session for your own school, staff and governors. Please contact your adviser for details.

Course Leaders: Fiona Craig and Sarah Thomas

Cost: Schools in Diocesan Service Agreement: £55 (+VAT) per delegate Schools not in the Diocesan Service Agreement: £90 (+VAT) per delegate

For more information: To book: 01865 208272 or e-mail: training@oxford.anglican.org