As you can see from many of the articles later in the magazine, it’s been a really busy few months for the parish, and for me personally it’s included not only a pilgrimage to the Holy Land but also whirlwind trips to Durham and Glasgow to attend graduation ceremonies for my sons (no, you’re quite right, they aren’t twins, in fact there are nearly 6 years between them: one degree was a PhD and the other was a B.Mus). Not to mention three days at the triennial Diocesan Clergy Conference near Derby, where we got to know a bit more about our new Bishop and were encouraged to think about taking care of ourselves so that we can take even better care of our parishes. On that subject, I just want to say how grateful I am that so many people in the parish are concerned about my welfare, really try to look after me, make every effort not to trouble me unnecessarily (often, please note, over things which I’d be very happy to be troubled about), and generally make me feel that as well as being valued as Rector I’m valued for myself. And particular thanks to the wardens, who amongst their many tasks make a point of being firm with me about taking my day off!
Amidst all the coming and going, and alongside placating the cats, who took a dim view of it, Sandy and I were very involved with something called a SIAMS inspection of St Bartholomew’s School. This stands for Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools. It’s a bit like an Ofsted inspection but focuses on the distinctive Christian ethos of the school and the impact it has on how children learn and develop. Some of the assessment criteria relate to the academic achievement of all the children and to the teaching of RE and on these we scored a very solid Good, but I’m delighted to say that “the impact of collective worship on the school community” was assessed as Outstanding and so was “the effectiveness of the leadership and management of the school as a church school”.
The inspector came to one of our weekly whole school assemblies in St Bart’s, where the theme was courage and the story was Daniel in the lion’s den: 60 Reception Class children had their faces painted with lion whiskers and noses and were barely restrained from eating Sandy, who as the king’s wicked adviser was thrown to them at the end of the story. We had high energy singing and deeply felt prayers, but the inspector was also concerned to know how the collective worship which takes place every day in school or church was planned and evaluated, and we were able to explain this in a meeting which involved school and church representatives.
The parish is also closely involved in the (outstandingly effective!) management and leadership of the school: nine of the 16 governors are appointed by the parish or the diocese – four of us are also PCC members – and no fewer than seven of these Foundation Governors turned out to meet the inspector and talk to her about church-school links and how the school, parish and community work together. Both the joint Summer Fun Day and the Haslemere Highwayman, reported elsewhere in the magazine, are great examples of that co-operation.
As well as the overall ratings, we can be justifiably pleased with our part in all three headline strengths identified by the inspector.
- Collective worship shapes the life of the school by providing regular uplifting times when the community comes together as one to reflect and give thanks.
- The exceptionally strong links with the local church and the nature of the support provided are central to the work of the school.
- The pupils’ outstanding spiritual development can be directly attributed to the distinct Christian ethos of the school.
It’s really good to know that what we have always seen as an unusually close relationship with our school is bearing fruit in this way and to have so many members of the parish involved with the school as parents, governors, helpers and prayer supporters. Thank you!
As I’m writing this, summer holidays are beginning – with a few days of torrential rain which I hope will soon give way to sunshine – and the Wave is almost upon us. Whether you are going away or staying in Haslemere, I do hope you will have a wonderful summer and that, like me, you are looking forward to the autumn and all that it will bring to our shared life of faith. Watch out for the next meeting of the Carpenters and a new afternoon Bible Study group which Peter Sellars will be leading, as well as a new initiative to help us all contribute to the developments of a vision for our parish.
With my love and prayers,