It is, as anticipated, a rather strange week this week –back from a two week break for a three day week, then a further long weekend. Pressure of examination preparation is quite acute for those students, and their teachers, facing GCSE, AS and A Level exams over the next ten weeks. However, despite fears, attendance has been exceptionally good this week with near normal levels of absence, which is really encouraging and a real tribute to the commitment of Bennett students and parents to school and to education. Inevitably, despite the short week, we are still trying to fit in the normal range of events: last evening we had the second year 10 parent consultation evening, which was a positive event for the vast majority, and today we are holding special Easter assemblies for most year groups. We are clear about the importance of ensuring that the main Christian festivals are marked in our corporate school worship – however with Easter falling a full fortnight after the end of term, we thought it would be better to mark it in school this week, as this was the closest we could get to Easter itself. It does have a somewhat odd feel however to be ‘doing Easter’ on the eve of the May bank holiday!
On Tuesday and Thursday evening this week we are running workshop sessions for parents who want to become more familiar with the potential of the Bennett ‘virtual learning environment’ (VLE) which we know as BSpace to enable parents to become more closely informed of and involved in their child’s learning, which increasingly is being mediated through the vehicle of the VLE. The first session on Tuesday was a very positive event and parents of students in years 7 to 9 who came were appreciative of the opportunities this communications technology offers. Tonight’s session is targeted at parents of year 10 and 11 students, though any with younger children who missed Tuesday’s session are most welcome to come anyway.
Over the Easter break many of us involved in Church secondary schools nationally were somewhat surprised to hear the Bishop of Oxford’s intervention on Church of England schools. Leaving aside the content for a moment, it seemed to me that the tone of what he said could easily have been interpreted as denigrating towards Church families who want their children to go to a school with a Christian ethos where their emergent faith and way of life can be nurtured, as well as incredibly naive about the reality of many Church schools. One daily paper’s follow up article can be read here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tobyyoung/100084806/bishop-of-oxford-comes-up-with-new-motto-for-church-schools-abandon-faith-all-ye-who-enter-here/– it is interesting that the Diocese of Oxford’s own website is now desperately trying to play down the comments: http://www.oxford.anglican.org/the-door/news/bishop-of-oxford-speaks-on-church-schools.html. Personally, I felt that choosing Good Friday of all days to make comments which could be interpreted at best as controversial and at worst as offensive to committed Church families choosing Church schools for their children was verging on the inexplicable. It is also telling that the warmest welcome for his comments came from those opposed not only to Church education, but to the Church, faith, and religion altogether. Odd bed-fellows. Anyway, as the Diocese of Oxford’s ‘clarification’ makes clear, admissions remain a matter for school governing bodies. Bennett’s governing body has no plans to do anything other than ensure that there is a proper Church secondary school in this area where Christian faith is nurtured for all those families who want this, combined with high standards, for their children.
I will end with a final picture from photographs I have taken recently. This is a further one from the windows at Fairford in Gloucestershire, taken in February, and depicts Thomas – so called ‘doubting Thomas’ –feeling the physical wound in the side of the Risen Christ. “You believe because you have seen. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.” In the Eastern Orthodox tradition Thomas is known not as ‘doubting’ but as ‘believing Thomas’. He does not recognise Jesus with enough conviction by his face, but does do so by touching his wounds. Suffering and risen – the message of hope Easter offers.