The second Sunday of September is identified as ‘Education Sunday’ – a day led by the ecumenical organisation Churches Together in England. Churches across a wide range of Christian denominations unite in recognising and celebrating everyone in the world of education.
Some in England today might ask just what we have to celebrate, at a time when there seem to be so many woes around education: debates on the fitness for purpose of examinations, concerns about the continuing impact of schooling lost to Covid, fears that the current school closures because of RAAC will put further strain on pupils and teaching staff as they try to ensure learning continues, money worries for stressed teachers and also for school finance teams as they juggle budgets to provide the levels of staffing and resources that will enable all children, whatever their needs, to flourish. This is particularly urgent as a higher-than-ever proportion of pupils are living with mental health disorders, and children are stressed with anxieties about family economic survival, world ecological catastrophe and the fear of war and its impacts.
As Church, we can celebrate that in our country there is school provision for all, irrespective of gender, ability or belief, whatever its limitations – and that in this Deanery our schools have exceptional teaching teams who are doing great work for pupils. We can celebrate that the Church of England was instrumental in ensuring education for all, and continues to be committed to promoting educational excellence for all children and young people, irrespective of their faith or no-faith position. Our Church of England schools are rooted in the principle that Christ came into the world so that ALL might have life in all its fullness.
We can ask ourselves as local churches what it is that we can do to celebrate our teachers, our support staff and all who are working for the educational flourishing of our youngsters. How, as churches, do we recognise and show our thanks to them? Are we praying for them regularly in our services and in our private prayers? How do we know what are their needs each term? Can we support the Deanery’s initiative to provide dedicated chaplaincy support to the Faringdon Learning Trust? What can we learn from our teachers and pupils? And what can we offer them?
This year’s Education Sunday theme, the armour of light, is chosen from the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, from Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13. Paul wrote that as followers of Christ we need to wake up, recognise and be ready for the hope that Christ promises. We need to put on the armour of light – put on Christ – and become people of hope, carrying his light in the world. At a time when there are so many anxieties, conflicts and trouble, and in a context where we may not proselytise our faith in school, instead we can think about how we, as Church, may serve and share hope within schools and with families, and help them discover the strength of that armour of Christ-light, as we offer our service and support to them.