There’s a school near our church. There are children inside. Rory’s grandad died of the virus. Harris learnt to speak French during lockdown and Ewan has forgotten his two times table. Sophie can’t stop wiping her table with hand sanitiser. Alfie and James look as if they haven’t had breakfast. Charlie has started wetting the bed at night and Isla has developed a stammer. Amelia has shot up such that her trousers are half-mast.

There’s a school near our church. There are kind, hardworking teachers inside. These days some of them look a little careworn. It’s hardly surprising. They have navigated countless changes over recent months, learnt new skills and had their ingenuity tested to the limit. The school year ended in exhausting uncertainty and now back in the classroom they face a list of obstacles which would daunt the most robust. Some of their pupils have forgotten how to learn, others find school no longer conducive to study. The attainment gap has become a chasm, and the pressure to make up lost time hampers the teachers’ creativity. On top of these challenges several teachers are grieving the loss of loved ones during the pandemic. And still the nagging thought remains that tomorrow looks so uncertain too.

The Scottish Government’s HGIOS4 (How good is our school 4) document describes partnership and collaboration as significant features of a highly effective school and a high-performing learning system”. That’s in normal times. These aren’t normal times. I suggest that makes it even more important that we reach out a helping hand to the school near our church. 

Is partnership and collaboration possible? And does it matter whether or not we partner with the school in our community? I would answer a resounding yes’ to both of those questions. Yes, partnership and collaboration are possible. A good place to start is to pray. Christian Values in Education (CVE) Scotland holds PrayerWorks’ events with teachers in a variety of locations in Scotland, either in person or, recently, via Zoom. These are a great means of support and we hope to see a PrayerWorks event in every corner of Scotland before too long. 

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Each time I see a child trundling past our house, dwarfed by his backpack, clutching a PE bag, I pray. I pray for that child, for his friends, for his teachers, for the school management, for the families represented in the school. The organisation Pray for Schools has a vision to see every school in the UK a prayed-for school, and it is possible on the website to discover who else is praying for the school nearby. I can encourage my church fellowship to pray for the school near our church. Together we can pray about how we can serve the school. The charity Serve Your Local School has lots of examples of how to do this.

Then, soaked in prayer one morning, we’ll take scones for the staff tea break to the school receptionist and ask if we could make an appointment to discuss any ways we can help. At our appointment we’ll ask:

  • How can we help you?
  • Would it help if the church hall were open for breakfast once or twice a week
  • Would a homework club after school help?
  • Would it be helpful if the chaplain prepared Time for Reflection’ sessions off-site for the time being and delivered them digitally?
  • Would some drop-in sessions for staff or pupils who may need a listening ear be helpful?

And whatever the answer to our questions we will keep praying.

Does it matter whether or not we partner with the school in our community? Again, a resounding yes’. It matters because thousands of children in our land don’t know who Jesus is. Our national curriculum requires children to make informed choices about beliefs and values. They can’t choose to believe in Jesus unless they know who He is. Thousands of children are unaware that the Bible tells the story of how and why they were made. Each child has the right to explore faith whilst in school, the Christian faith and other faiths.

CVE Scotland’s strapline is: Supporting school staff, chaplains and families to communicate the Christian faith, so that children and young people can make informed choices about beliefs and values. There’s a school near our church. Those children may never come inside our church on a Sunday morning, but as we partner with the school they can learn who we believe Jesus is. There are several resources available to help teachers, chaplains and schools’ workers creatively present the Christian faith to children and young people.

Dr Steve Younger, who has been a chaplain for nearly 40 years and who works for CVE Scotland in a chaplaincy project, has written four booklets each containing 24 ideas for Time for Reflection’ in schools which match the requirements of the Curriculum for Excellence. You can read about them on the CVE Scotland website. There you can also see several other resources highlighted. These provide a treasure trove for teachers, chaplains and schools’ workers wanting to teach about Christianity.

  • www​.com​pas​sion​.com​.au/​c​o​l​i​n​-​b​u​c​hanan
  • ten​biblesto​ries​.org
  • scot​tish​bible​so​ci​ety​.org/​o​u​r​-​w​o​r​k​-​i​n​-​s​c​o​tland
  • biblepro​ject​.com
  • bigstar​tassem​blies​.org
  • www​.sus​cot​land​.org​.uk

Burdened for the children, young people and families around our church there’s more we can do. Parents welcome reassurance that they are not alone in their anxieties for their children and teens. Sometimes a church will partner with the local council, with the NHS, the police and Cybersafe Scotland and host a meeting where a speaker will address issues relating to mental health, drugs, cyber bullying or alcohol, for example. The possibilities are endless, and let’s remember: partnership and collaboration are significant features of a highly effective school.

Paul said that he had become all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22). Partnering with the school near our church is a step towards making Jesus known.

Each time I see a child trundling past our house, dwarfed by his backpack, clutching a PE bag, I pray.