Harbour Churches Newsletter 26th February

Education for Liberation!

That’s quite a slogan isn’t it. The word ‘liberation’ can make us feel just a little uncomfortable – especially if we are not sure who is being liberated and at what cost to us…

And yet it’s really no different to the strap line  ‘Education for Life’. This intention has been the motivation for the amazing work done through the local partnership of church and community to build a 1200 pupil primary and secondary school in Bo, Sierra Leone. This reminds me – I think it’s time to hear from Revd. Bruce about how our friends there are coping with the ongoing pandemic, and if they have anything like the access to vaccination we do – which I doubt.

I do weekly Zoom worship to the class bubbles – and home learners –  in both our local Church Primary Schools. We’ve been thinking about how lockdown has been a bit like a long, long Lent and all the things we have had to ‘give up’ and how tough that has been. As we reach the one year mark of restrictions, just about all the children have really missed not being able to celebrate their birthdays with an ‘in-person’ party. No big deal maybe in the scheme of things, but clearly they felt the loss of it. We’re moving on to think about how tempted we have all been to break the rules on restrictions…. And what it feels like when we know we have!

What has really struck me is how the children who have been in school throughout the pandemic because of special need or deprivation, are now so much more confident and engaged. Clearly, they have thrived in the smaller class sizes and through a curriculum designed to meet their learning needs and not the need to pass tests. Yes, there will be other children who will have fallen behind and will need the extra support being made available by the Government (£1bn).

We believe that the gift an education brings life to children in the developing world. That must mean we also know that education frees them from the captivity of ignorance, poverty and ultimately, political and economic oppression – all that is death dealing.

Do we also believe the same is true for the children of our nation? The average size of a class in the independent sector is 16 – in the state sector it is 27. Arguments abound as to the efficacy of class size to learning outcomes… but I know which I’d have preferred as a pupil, teacher and parent. The more testing question is whether I’d be prepared to maintain the presently high level of state funding post-pandemic to ensure that  statutory class sizes were 15 or 20?

When, as a church, we are invited to consider the characteristic of ‘freedom’ as foundational to our faith, surely it must engage with how we contribute to the national debate about building back better?

As ever and with my prayers
Jonathan

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