1. Liberal Education
Scotland rightly takes pride in its system of liberal education: while working within the overall values of values of wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity1, children and young people are provided with the information, experiences and critical tools needed to make a wide range of decisions and choices for themselves2.
“A school is excellent to the extent that, as children progress in maturity, their personal values and an awareness of wider-held social issues are understood.”
Journey to Excellence: Dimension 1 --Learning and Teaching3
Specifically in terms of beliefs and values:
Children and young people must become aware that beliefs and values are fundamental to families and to the fabric of society in communities, local and global. There is an intrinsic value in learning about religion as well as learning from religion….. Children and young people should be given opportunities to participate in service to others and to meet people who show their faith in action.4
By working with schools, staff and volunteers from Christian organisations can provide a significant resource in support of liberal education, helping children and young people to understand Christian beliefs, to see authentic faith in practical action, and to develop critical tools which empower them to make their own informed decisions.
2. Community Partnerships
All guidelines from the Scottish Government insist that schools should work in partnership: school/local and wider community; school/parents; teachers/pupils etc.
A school is excellent to the extent that…
- Leaders throughout the establishment engage actively with partners, community representatives and agencies and promote and Support community partnerships. There is evidence of meaningful community involvement throughout the school.
- Partnerships with other establishments, organisations and businesses are used to broaden and deepen young people’s learning and to enable them to achieve success in wider contexts. This work is carefully planned by school leaders to enhance the curriculum and develop the perspectives of both children and staff. Community links are fully embedded into the life and work of the school.5
Support from staff and volunteers from Christian organisations is one of many ways in which a school can discharge its duty to work in partnership with the local and wider community.
A key driver for schools is the importance of inclusion. This extends to all pupils, as Journey to Excellence for the makes clear:
A school is excellent to the extent that…
- Respect for diversity and understanding of differences and values are given a high value in the life of the school. Children and young people are given encouragement to share their views and act as positive role models for others.6
Pupil empowerment and the development of the pupil voice in support of inclusion are both highly important in Curriculum for Excellence, and it is in this context that extracurricular Christian Groups can be of real benefit to the whole school.
4. Holistic Learning
All schools are required to plan for and support pupils’ holistic development across all four contexts of learning. As part of this provision, they are expected to support and develop special interest clubs and activities. These will reflect a diverse range of experiences (e.g. sports, hobbies), and also beliefs and values, including those taking particular social or religious viewpoints such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Scripture Union, local churches etc. The key requirement is that such groups must operate with the knowledge and permission of the headteacher, and their existence and activities should be shared with all parents and carers (normally by a list of clubs, sports, and out of class activities on the school's website).
Schools are also required to support opportunities for pupils to widen their experiences and achievements, and so will publicise out-of-school activities such as Army Cadet groups and other uniformed organisations, youth clubs, dance groups etc. A school should not discriminate against a particular type of recognised out-of-school activity on social or religious grounds, as to do so would be to undermine the young person’s right to choose.
5. Support for Health and Wellbeing
Probably the most relevant guidelines for Christians seeking to support a school are those in connection with Health and Wellbeing: Responsibility for All. Needless to say, these Guidelines, Experiences and Outcomes should be examined closely when planning support in conjunction with a school:
Each establishment, working with partners, should take a holistic approach to promoting health and wellbeing, one that takes account of the stage of growth, development and maturity of each individual, and the social and community context.
In detail, a pupil is entitled to… expect my learning environment to support me to:
- develop my self-awareness, self-worth and respect for others
- meet challenges, manage change and build relationships
- experience personal achievement and build my resilience and confidence
- understand and develop my physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing and social skills
- learn about where to find help and resources to inform choices
- assess and manage risk and understand the impact of risk-taking behaviour
- to help me make informed choices when planning my next steps
- acknowledge diversity and understand that it is everyone’s responsibility to challenge discrimination.
Education Scotland:Health and Wellbeing across Learning: Responsibilities of All: Experiences and Outcomes7
1. the assertion of the right and potential ability of children and young people to make informed choices in areas including the social and spiritual (in complete accord with the position of churches and Christian organisations throughout Scotland)
2. the requirement to work with partners and to work within the social and community context. Appropriate educational Support by churches, Christian voluntary organisations and individuals should be welcomed by schools as part of their planned provision for Health and Wellbeing. Since the school-community partnership is expected to be dynamic, such groups (along with a wide range of other community groups) are free to approach a local school with offers of help, as suggested, for example, by the Serve your Local School website.8
1 see Building the Curriculum 3, page 13. These values are inscribed on the Scottish Parliamentary mace.
4 (Education Scotland: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/rme_principles_practice_tcm4-540203.pdf)
5 Journey to Excellence: Partnership http://www.journeytoexcellence.org.uk
6 Journey to Excellence: Culture & Ethos http://www.journeytoexcellence.org.uk