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The blog

Living in trust

posted Thursday 8th May 2014 by Gill Robins

How can anyone begin to make sense of the murder of a kind, caring and widely respected teacher, just doing her job on an ordinary day in an ordinary classroom? How can anyone move beyond the shock and the realisation, especially given the ethos of the school, that there, but for the grace of God, go I? Yes, it was a random act, unprecedented in any school in our largely peaceful country. Yes, it was unexpected and yes, its coming was unseen and unpredictable. And that is what makes it so unsettling.

Following her death, some questioned (not for the first time) whether metal detectors should be installed in schools, to protect both staff and students. The Head of Corpus Christi Catholic College was quick to say that this was not what Ann Maguire would have wanted. Installing metal detectors in schools is like locking children in their bedroom for misbehaviour – it’s an admission of defeat.

Ann Maguire, who had taught in the same school for more than 40 years, epitomised all that is best in our education service. The subject which she taught was Spanish, but her teaching encompassed so much more than just language lessons. She taught countless students about trust, about integrity and about how to care, and she taught by the example of her life. But she understood, too, about the need for high expectations – the very highest that they could achieve, according to her pupils. Less than their best wasn’t acceptable, and many students past and present have paid tribute to her insistence that half measures weren’t good enough either for her or for them. Colleagues, too, have paid tribute to the generosity of her support and advice born out of her many years of experience in the profession. Her death is an agonising loss to those who loved her, and it is a loss, too, to her students, her school and the community which she served and in which she was so widely known and respected.

There is another irreversible loss, too, for a teenager whose life will never be the same again; a teenager whose plans and hopes and dreams may never be realised, also with a family whose lives are in ruins. Metal detectors will find knives. But they can never detect the anger or the hatred that motivates a person to pick up a tool and use it as a deadly weapon. Only God can see that: the Bible tells us ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV).

The school prayer at Corpus Christi is:
Today as we WORK together, we ask you; be with us, Lord.
Today as we LEARN together, we ask you; be with us, Lord.
Today as we PRAY together, we ask you; be with us, Lord.
Today as we GROW together, we ask you; be with us, Lord.
Today as we live our MISSION, we ask you; be with us, Lord.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, ‘We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us,’ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and that is why, as we live out our mission in the places where God has sent us, we will continue to work in open, caring trust with all those around us.

Gill Robins

The mark of a true ambassador

posted by Gill Robins  Thursday 24th April 2014
What an Easter break. There were the predictable union calls for industrial action. There were declarations that Easter is all about caring for the poor: it isn’t, of course, it’s about our glorious salvation from eternal death as a result of which we should, as the Pope encouraged, take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  It’s a gospel for the poor and disenfranchised, and rich, self-sufficient power brokers alike.  And then there was the moment when the Prime Minister decided it was time, in the infamous words of Alistair Campbell, to ‘do God’. 
Was this political expediency to capture middle England from UKIP?  A shrewd move to distance himself from atheists Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg in advance of the election?  An encouragement to Christians to pick up the pieces of broken Britain, neatly aligning with the Lords Spiritual and simultaneously improving care for the destitute with no expenditure from the public purse?  Or a genuine statement of embryonic faith?  Well, as God told Samuel when he was looking for a kingly figure to anoint, ‘the LORD looks at the heart’, 1 Samuel 16:7 and despite the many column inches devoted to its analysis, we don’t actually know what motivated David Cameron to say what he did.
Into the midst of these utterances from the great and the good, there came an article from Lynsey Wilson, Head of RE at The Redhill Academy in Nottinghamshire.  It recounts her four year journey with her students from rookie teacher to the selection of her students by the Religious Education Council as Young Ambassadors for RE.  She tells her story with a vibrancy and passion that I won’t attempt to describe – it’s best to read the article yourself.
What struck me was her students’ enthusiasm for examining values and belief systems in order to understand people.  And in doing so, they learnt to challenge their own thinking and what they thought they knew, learning much more about themselves in the process of understanding others.  The quality of the students’ work has led to appearances on BBC Radio 4 and a chance to visit Westminster to address MPs on the All Party Parliamentary Group on RE. 
It’s a shining example of excellence in RE teaching.  It’s not confessional.  It doesn’t proselytise.  It teaches students to think, analyse, evaluate and challenge.  And in doing so, it also provides a shining example of best practice in teaching itself, nurturing the spiritual, cultural and emotional development of young people alongside their academic growth. 
If you ever wonder what difference you’re making as a Christian in education, ponder on the content of this article.  Jesus never forced his opinions.  He shared.  He discussed.  He cared.  Then he let people decide for themselves.  Living out kingdom values in front of students and colleagues every day, whatever subject or age group we teach, is what marks us as true ambassadors for God.
Gill Robins

A two hour travelogue

posted by Robert Hall Friday 18th April 2014

The other Sunday afternoon I climbed the Worcestershire Beacon, one of the Malvern Hills. It’s a climb of over a thousand feet and, at my age and condition, a useful exercise. I love walking for all the obvious reasons, including the ability to think, talk to God and work things out in a way which I cannot do in the office.  My eyesight is deteriorating, so the view from the top was not as clear as once it was, yet to look over our beloved kingdom, created by God for His purpose, is still a joy. Praise Him!

At the very top there is a triangulation point. Although made redundant by satellite technology, four young people sat on three sides with their backs to the concrete. I occupied the fourth side, and together we surveyed the distant horizon. They could doubtless see more clearly than me, but I perhaps knew more about future dreams, achievements and disappointments. I silently prayed for them. They decided to get up and one of the girls said ‘Goodbye’ as she left. How nice to be acknowledged. I prayed for them as they disappeared into the distance. Praise Him!

The going down is frequently more hazardous than the going up and I found myself on loose stones and began to slip. I found myself running downhill to maintain my balance, very grateful for the stick I had brought with me as a last-minute thought. After a few metres, I managed to regain a safe walking pace. Praise Him!

Some time later, as I descended, I met a woman toiling uphill, head down, busy with her smart ‘phone. On her back sat a child of around eighteen months. We stopped to speak and the child gazed at me with the kind of wonder experienced when seeing an elephant for the first time. As I walked on, I prayed for the child, her whole life spread out before her, again with its delights and hazards. Praise Him!

At our evening service I sat by a friend who said he had seen me during my walk, “striding out with a staff like Moses”. Hardly, I thought. On the other hand, all we Christians in education are leaders. Yes, some more than others, but if we have children in our care we are, necessarily, leaders. Like Christian leaders down the years, our business is to seek him when our feet begin to stumble. Let’s ask Him for guidance in our dealings with people. Even in the briefest of exchanges a kind word can be remembered. Praise Him!


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