I spent Monday over at Luton, meeting with Chris Curtis from LCET.  I was there to chat with him about two things: the We love our youth worker campaign and the future of schools work.

I’ll blog later about the We love our youth worker campaign, all I’ll say now is that we’ve been one of the trial churches and really enjoyed our experience.  It’s encouraged us to reflect on my practice but also on how we treat our volunteers.

In terms of schools work here in Tonbridge we’re receiving more opportschoolsworkunities than we can say yes to, and so beginning to look at how we could grow this wider than the present system.  At various points the town has had an organisation that existed to co-ordinate the Christian work in local secondary schools – for various reasons this doesn’t exist at present.

One set of my questions to Chris focussed on the structure and sustainability of such an organisation.  We have our dream view of what we’d like to see happen, but that is a big jump from present reality, so how could we chunk the jump?  How could we form manageable steps to get from A to B? Chris spoke about the need to continue to encourage local churches to take ownership in schools work, and the opportunities that specific funding could allow us to buy in expertise for certain sessions, e.g. self-harm, self-image.

My other set of questions focused on the future of schools work, and so therefore the vision and priority of any secondary schools work organisation.  Our discussion centred on the changing world of schools: assemblies are very rare – and normally linked to a key notice or statement from senior staff, rather than the daily experience as I started secondary school.  The lunch hour – the opportunity for evangelistic lunch clubs and discipleship based Christian Unions has been chopped in half, and in some schools is part of an extended lesson in the middle of the day.

Religious Education, has in the last ten years has become much less biblical, more philosophical, and at the moment is being sucked into the wider agenda of citizenship.  It leaves an interesting question: will Religious Education exist in five years time as a separate subject?  If the bread and butter opportunities of assemblies and RE lessons are in decline what is it that a Christian schools work organisation could be doing that, for example Connexions, wouldn’t do?

Chris suggests that it is about engaging young people and the school in a spiritual vocabulary: this allows discussion of faith and belief which is what we can uniquely bring, and helps a school to fulfill their duty to bring on Spiritual, Social, Moral and Cultural into lessons.  That, he argues is to be our priority, and pastoral and social care should come second to that.  The only problem is that isn’t the easy option, it requires a lot of thinking and development.  It’s about being more holistic in our approach, using the arts to allow young people to express themselves, encouraging and teaching them a depth of vocabulary, not just words, but the life behind those words, e.g. hope, despair.

I like what he’s saying – I still want to make the most of the classic schools work opportunities being presented to us (RE lessons, assemblies, Christian Unions) but I want to, in a sense, ‘future proof’ our work by engaging with where education is going.

What is anyone else’s experience?

Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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