Working with Schools

"So open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified." (Romans 15.7)

Most parishes contain one or more school, and some of these will be church schools. Churches and schools that belong to the same denomination might be expected to have a particularly close relationship with each other, but other schools can also welcome a supportive relationship with local churches. The ideas on this page are not exhaustive, but give some indication of the ways in which schools and churches can work together for the good of the children and families in their shared community.

Thanks to the Reverend Kate Mier and Mrs Alison Farnell (Consultant DBE Training Manager, Coventry Diocese) for many of the ideas included on this page.

Collective Worship

For logistical and other reasons, many schools find it difficult to provide the statutory daily collective worship, which is wholly or mainly of a Christian character. Teachers are professionally trained to deliver their own subjects, but this does not automatically mean that they feel confident or comfortable about leading an act of collective worship. Especially within multi-parish groups, however, it is no longer possible for the local priest to meet the traditional expectation of weekly clergy-led assemblies. Instead, a pattern is now developing in many parishes of a churches providing a mixture of clergy-led and lay-led assemblies in their local schools. This website provides and points to many of the resources that are available to support teachers, clergy, lay people and even children in planning collective worship. In addition:

The Diocese of Gloucester Resource Centre has produced a resource to teach 18 carefully selected values over 3 years and promote Christian values and understanding throughout all aspects of school life: Values for Life includes Collective Worship plans, links to SEAL themes and classroom activities.

Worship Workshop is a Church of England website designed to help schools create their own patterns of worship around their own themes.

Open the Book is a resource especially well-suited to teams of lay people who are willing to take part in school assemblies. If you are in the Fosse Deanery then please contact the to be put in touch with teams of lay people who are making this work in their parishes.

Flippin' Praise is a useful resource that can also encourage children to be more involved in planning and delivering collective worship.

Schools sometimes struggle to find good music to use in assemblies. On the whole, it is helpful for there to be a two-way conversation between churches and schools about the music that happens in each. One resource that some schools have found useful is the Kevin Mayhew CD set, No Pianist for Assembly? No Problem.

A Shared Vision

In many churches, a majority of the congregation will have little understanding of how schools work today, the different types of schools, and so on. Conversely, teachers who are not themselves church people will often know little about how churches work. There is a role, here, for churches and schools to share knowledge and experience.

Many schools and churches will have worked on their own mission statements or equivalent: a plan or vision for their purpose and short/long-term aims. It may be helpful for them to share these with each other, and to begin to ask questions about how each can help the other to realise its vision.

Is it feasible for each school to have a person in the local church who acts as a key link between the two communities, keeping them informed about each other's news, and acting as a conduit for requests for help and cooperation?

Familiarity with the life of their local church can help to give children a sense of their community's history and their place in it. Is there any opportunity in your local church for older pupils to becoming involved in community service or volunteering?

Both churches and schools are often keen to encourage their children to look outwards and consider the needs of people beyond their local area. Churches and schools can collaborate, to great effect, in their efforts to raise funds for appropriate charities; or to support the links that often exist between parishes or Dioceses in this country and others across the world (e.g. churches in the Coventry Diocese collect books to be sent to the Diocese of Kaduna in Nigeria); or to raise children's awareness of those in need (e.g. both churches and schools can become members of the Community of the Cross of Nails; or Open Doors provides resources to enable children to write letters of encouragement to children in other countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith).

Religious Education

Religious Education lessons in Secondary Schools will usually be delivered by subject specialists, but Primary School teachers usually teach R.E. as one of a whole range of subjects, and may not have specialist knowledge in this area. One role for local churches might be to provide some insights, for teachers who are not themselves churchgoers, into how churches work, the different denominations, Diocesan structures, church language, and so on. This could be done via Governors' training or staff meetings.

Even very experienced R.E. teachers will sometimes have gaps in their knowledge or experience. It could be very helpful for schools to have a named contact in their local churches, who would be willing to answer any questions that arise.

There is a place in R.E. lessons for visits from members of faith communities. Church members can provide children with first-hand insights into what it means to be a Christian, the life of their local churches, and so on. Visitors need to be careful to avoid either evangelising or making assumptions about pupils' faith backgrounds, and host schools will be able to provide guidance about the nature of R.E. in schools today.

R.E. teachers will often be pleased to receive or borrow religious artefacts, such as books, Palm crosses, Christingles, and so on, which can help to bring their subject to life.

Educational visits to places of worship can be an important element of R.E. lessons. Through visits to churches, pupils can receive real insights into the life of the local Christian community, as well as seeing for themselves the architecture, furniture and symbolism of the building. Subject to the usual child protection procedures, church members can be available during these visits, where possible, to offer a welcome and answer any questions. If children in your church would normally be offered drinks and biscuits after a service, then it might be worth asking the school whether it would be appropriate to offer refreshements to the visiting children as well. Many children will be unaware that times of fellowship and sharing are important parts of what goes on in a church building, in addition to times of worship.

One imaginative use of the parish church as a local resource was made by a Primary School whose older pupils were investigating Christian beliefs about life after death: the children visited the local churchyard and made a note of the inscriptions on the gravestones there. Members of the PCC who had welcomed them to the churchyard then invited them into the building, where they had chance to look around, and afterwards their teacher asked the PCC members to say a prayer with the children before they left.

Through the Year

School-church information can be shared via Priests, Parish Adminstrators, Foundation Governors, school reports to PCCs, and lay people who agree to act as the church's point of contact for a school.

There are various times through the year when it might be appropriate for churches and schools to come together. Church schools in particular might come to church, or welcome church members into school, to celebrate festivals such as Christmas, Easter and Harvest. On occasions when parents are invited to special services that are held in the school, with the support of local clergy, what happens often feels like "doing church in school" - and indeed for many of the parents, these may be the only times when they come to "church".

National events such as Education Sunday can also offer opportunities for a shared service, assembly or project work.

Some church schools might feel that it is appropriate to host an annual or occasional Faith Week, when local churches lead activities or pay for Christian organisations to lead activities in the school.

Churches may be able to offer pupils support during important transitions such as the move to or from secondary school, perhaps by making a gift of resources such as Scripture Union's It's Your Move booklet, the Salvation Army's Moving Up booklet or even, if it is thought appropriate, of youth Bibles. One church asks its members to consider sponsoring one or more of the booklets: a bookmark is then included to tell the child who receives it that it has been donated by a church member, and that the donor is praying for that child.

Schools may welcome gifts at other times during the year, such as Palm crosses.

Schools might value support from churches in selecting and writing prayers for use during collective worship. For further ideas about prayer support, see below.

Schools and/or staff could be invited to become involved in church events. E.g. choirs or groups of dancers could be involved in concerts or church fetes.

Some schools have prayer boards in their local churches, or display artwork there. Some schools have prayer trees, or baskets of prayer stones, in the school building - another way of bringing church into school.

Just as school services in church can help some parents to feel more comfortable in the church building, so some church members may begin to feel more comfortable in the school building if church meetings or groups are sometimes held there.

Volunteering in Schools

There are many ways in which church members can support their local schools, by volunteering to hear children read, to act as mentors, to be Foundation Governors, and so on.

Schools will need to provide guidance, where necessary, to ensure that visitors understand the school context, in which there may be children of different faiths and none, and are familiar with the school's policies with regard to discipline, safeguarding, and so on.

Some church members may feel able to run after-school clubs. It can be helpful to invite people to run a club for a term or half a term, so that it feels like a manageable task rather than an endless commitment.

Some schools may welcome a church volunteer to run a Christian lunchtime club for the Christian children in the school.

Prayer Support

Schools often pray for local schools - but do the schools know that they have this prayer support? Are churches properly informed so that they can base their prayers on current school issues and needs?

Not all schools will feel able to enter a praying relationship with a church. Church schools in particular, though, may be open to exploring this area.

Without wishing to impose an administrative burden on schools, is it possible for churches to become better informed about the school events and needs, so that they can be included in prayer diaries, weekly intercessions, prayer groups, etc? Perhaps someone could be responsible for checking the school's website to find out about significant school events; or the school could send its termly calendar to someone in the church.

School Councils (whose members are children) could produce prayer requests for their local churches. School reports to PCCs could include prayer requests.

Church prayer requests could be included in school assemblies.

Christian teachers will usually have their own churches, which may not be local to their school, but they may also welcome the opportunity to join in prayer with Christians who care about their school. Could local church members, Christian governors and Christian teachers pray together on a regular basis? Would an emailed prayer diary or a prayer chain work in your local context, so that people can share prayer requests with each other even if they cannot meet very often?

Supporting Christian Teachers

Richard Kaye, the Chief Executive of the Association of Christian Teachers, has said:

. . . if non-educators really understood how time-hungry, energy-sapping and potentially health-damaging term-time life can be they would not say, "I hear you're a teacher… I wonder if you'd like to run our junior church… and lead our weekly Thursday evening youth club… and organise our two week summer camp for 100 local kids… and… and… and…"

Rather, they should actively seek to unburden teachers. A conversation might start like this: "I hear you're a teacher… I wonder if there's anything I could do to support you this year. For example, is there anything you'd like me to pray about?"

In addition to inviting Christian teachers to be prayer partners, intercessing on behalf of the schools for which they and the local churches share a heart, churches can also offer prayer support to those teachers. For Christian teachers who are in a minority in their schools, the local church could provide a lifeline of fellowship.

Schools Supporting Churches

Some schools may be able to share the resource of their buildings with local churches, for holiday clubs, Junior Church, etc.

Schools can provide a vital outlet for publicity for church children's work such as holiday and mid-week clubs. They might allow you to advertise relevant events in their weekly newsletter, via fliers in bookbags, posters at the school gate, and so on.

A school might even allow you to run a taster session with the relevant age group for new ventures such as holiday or mid-week clubs.

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