The church primary school(s) of your mission community or benefice provide(s) a very significant opportunity for all-age ministry and mission. As with all ministry there are a number of ways in which you can set about the task. What is appropriate will depend upon the circumstances and ethos of the school(s) and your own interests and style as well, of course, on the time you make available. It is important to consider how you consider the task and pitch your involvement accordingly rather than simply fall into a role fashioned by others.
It is very likely that the church school(s) have more children on roll than are on your parish electoral roll. At the end of the school day each child returns to home and family. As each generation goes through the school it is replaced by the next. Regular, keen and appropriate contact with the whole school community will build natural pastoral relationships with a very significant proportion of your parish. Most will have chosen the school(s) because they exist to serve the whole community; some may come specifically because they have sought a church school. A church school is a safe place where there is no ideological pressure and yet Christian inferences are built into the ethos. A church school will welcome your full involvement as ordained minister of the Church.
A good working relationship with the Headteacher is of prime importance. You need to be sensitive to the fact that not all headteachers in church schools are themselves practising Christians. It is the headteacher’s responsibility to maintain the church ethos of the school but it is important not to make inappropriate assumptions about personal faith commitment. The headteacher is finally responsible for all that goes on in the day to day life of the school. You will be made very welcome; but it is important to acknowledge where the final responsibility lies.
Becoming A Governor
As the “Principal Officiating Minister” you will be expected to become an ex-officio Foundation Governor.
In some schools it is the tradition for the incumbent to be also Chair of Governors. Think carefully before agreeing to assume this role. It can be very time consuming and can, in some cases, lead to conflict of interests with your pastoral role in the school. On the other hand, the school community often sees the Chair of Governors as trusted leader and the position can be a strategically important one for the incumbent to fill. In any case, the Chair must be elected annually (usually in September). It is quite in order to resist any pressure to take up the role and entirely proper to insist on a settling in period whilst you decide on the pros and cons of taking the chair.
The confession of ignorance over the duties of school governance can have a liberating effect on others also relatively new; do not claim to know more than you do! There is regular governor training available from the LA and also from the Diocese; the school’s delegated budget should meet any fees incurred.
The Officers of the Diocesan Board of Education are available to you for consultation and advice on any matter relating to your role in school.
Occasionally, especially when there is more than one church school in the benefice, the minister may choose not to become a governor. In this case the Archdeacon will appoint to the vacancy on the basis of local advice. In the first instance, contact the Director of Education.
Collective Worship & RE
It is often assumed that the incumbent will take a weekly act of collective worship (‘assembly’). Do not agree to do so unless you are confident of managing the commitment. Regular blocks of assemblies, fortnightly visits, class or year group acts of worship or other classroom contributions can be equally effective. It is important that you do what you are good at, what you can manage and what you enjoy.
In many schools collective worship is planned a term or a more ahead and is themed. You may have an important role to play in the forward planning of worship. You will be a ‘liturgical consultant’ to the school; try to keep abreast of appropriate material consistent with the tradition but accessible to the age group.
Remember the distinction between collective worship and RE. If you intend to help with classroom RE, you need to consult the local Agreed RE Syllabus, which should be readily available in school.
The Diocesan RE Adviser is available to you and there are also regular training events
The School & The Parish
A significant part of the role is to present the parish to the school and the school to the parish. The school should feature in public intercession. Try to ensure there is regular school news in the parish magazine and on noticeboards and that the school community regularly uses the church building. When children visit, try whenever possible to ensure there are lay churchpeople present so the church is seen by children as a community rather than just an empty building. The school should also feature regularly on the PCC agenda; in some parishes the headteacher has been co-opted on to the PCC (despite living elsewhere).
Recommending to the Board (or appointing) Foundation Governors is a PCC duty. There are standard Nomination and Declaration forms for Foundation Governors. There may be opportunity here for drawing adults in to the life of the church through their involvement with school. Opportunities such as the Commissioning of Foundation Governors or Education Sunday (now early September) or other special occasions can be used imaginatively