‘Schools have the power to transform communities’. That was the message of an inspiring Church Schools conference in Leeds with teachers and governors from many of the Diocese of Leeds’ 242 Church Schools taking part on March 16.
‘Schools Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities’, the annual Diocese of Leeds Schools Conference at the Queen’s Hotel, Leeds focussed on the importance of religious education (RE) in educating young people for a better society which promotes mutual understanding and community cohesion.
The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway (pictured) , the Church of England’s lead bishop for education in the House of Lords, was one of the keynote speakers and spoke of the need for real wisdom and character in ‘each of the dioceses 242 church schools’.
“Real wisdom is focussed on listening and realising that we don’t have all the answers,” he told the conference.
It was an inspiriring, multi-media, start to the day withLat Blaylock, the editor of RE Today magazine and a national RE adviser. He told delegates, "Out of RE comes the overflow into the children’s imaginative and creative consciousness, and out of that flows into their work and their self-expression - dance, sport, art -, and across the curriculum. Out of that flows something which goes even beyond the school and the school gates into the families and the communities that the school serves. I believe much of that transformation is already happening.”
At a time when RE is sometimes seen as the Cinderella subject in schools, speakers highlighted its importance for a healthy society.
Other speakers included Mark Pike, Professor of Education at the University of Leeds and Darrell Woodman, a trainer and Director of Art of Brilliance Ltd.
(Pictured left to right , Lat Blaylock, Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley, Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education, Bishop Jonathan Gibbs, who chaired the conference, Richard Noake , Darrell Woodman , Professor Mark Pike, and Bishop Stephen Conway).
Inspiring worship was led by children from two church schools, Abbey Grange CofE Academy in Leeds in the morning, and East Morton CofE Primary in Keighley in the afternoon.
Despite RE being compulsory in secondary schools, more than a quarter fail to offer RE and the Religious Education Council of England and Wales warned that a shortage of religious education teachers could contribute to religious stereotyping and discrimination, leaving pupils at risk of becoming ignorant, or bigoted.
Director of Education, Richard Noake described the conference as “affirming, but also challenging”.
“Schools should be places where children flourish and experience ‘life in all its fullness’ “ he said.
“It’s about the school ethos and it particularly chimes with things that Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, has been saying over the past year or so - that even from an Ofsted HMI point of view education needs to be more than just the narrow focus on literacy and numeracy but a much broader inspection of what is being provided that will draw out from each individual child their ultimate purpose and their contribution.”