22 June 2010
Preparations for celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Church of England opening the first free schools in England and Wales begin in earnest this week, with the launch of a website, www.natsoc200.org.uk. The site is aimed at inspiring and supporting today’s 5,000 Church of England and Church in Wales schools, and their associated churches, to mark the landmark birthday in creative ways.
Ideas suggested at www.natsoc200.org.uk include:
- Encouraging bishops to visit as many church schools in their diocese as possible, or to go ‘back to school’ themselves, sit in on a day’s lessons and compare it with their school memories;
- Arranging ‘question time’ events with former pupils of various ages visiting the school and sharing their life stories;
- Planting a new section of school garden or churchyard with fruit trees or a vegetable plot; or creating a quiet space as a joint initiative between church and school, perhaps under a pergola with benches and wind chimes;
- Holding a community litter-pick event or painting a mural design on an appropriate wall to ‘give something back’ to the local community, and mounting a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion.
The ‘National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church’ (now known simply as the National Society) was founded in 1811 with the intention of establishing a school in every parish providing education for those who had no other opportunity. This pioneering vision was brought into reality through a huge programme of building, staffing and equipping new schools – fifty years before the State saw the importance of providing free education.
The Society’s founding commitment to providing inclusive and distinctive education remains the Church of England’s commitment today and into the future.
The Bishop of Lincoln and Chair of the Church of England’s Board of Education, the Rt Revd John Saxbee, said: “The National Society story is well worth re-telling for a new generation. It is a story of faith, vision and determination to make education for all a reality in this country. We want to see this anniversary marked in every single church school across the land, not just for its own sake but because it gives young people some unrivalled learning opportunities across and beyond the curriculum: chances to consider what it means to be learning in a church school, how their school site was constructed and developed over time, artistic ways of creating lasting reminders of the anniversary, and so on.
“It’s also a prime opportunity for schools and academies to consider what more they can do to build links with other schools, both close to them and overseas, and how they can forge new mutually beneficial links with their community.”
The website also contains advice on researching a school’s history and building links between schools and their parish church. It was designed and built by Big Briefs, a London-based web company (www.big-briefs.com).
The celebrations will officially begin on 20th February 2011, Education Sunday, a day set aside for prayer, reflection and celebration on the role of Christian educators and the role of Churches in all kinds of education. Special prayers and other suggested service elements will be uploaded to the new website to give churches all they need to tailor services to mark the anniversary.