Phase: Primary, Secondary
Leading a Faith School is a timely new book written especially for headteachers and senior leaders of schools with a religious character.
Leading a faith school is a challenge, even when you share that faith. Because of the increasingly politicised ‘faith schools debate’, you are automatically in a position of controversy, fielding arguments such as:
Does God raise standards? Do faith schools cherry-pick their students? Should faith schools be funded? Do they teach creationism rather than evolution? Are they divisive?
If you are of a different faith, or no faith, the task becomes more complex and requires careful reflection of ethos and values; collaboration with staff and community; and an understanding of the importance of religious education and the distinctiveness of the school. It is also important to understand how the foundation and past of the school shapes its present and future.
This is a useful reference work for school leaders as well as being an interesting read from historical and sociological points of view. It aims to help readers:
understand the historical context in which faith schools are set
become more aware of the main arguments of the faith schools debate and have some understanding of the counter-arguments
understand what makes a faith school distinctive and different from a non-voluntary school
have a framework for self-evaluation that will help them to prepare for Section 48 inspection
understand the unique relationship of the leader of a faith school with various stakeholders, and understand why this position is similar to, yet different from, the same post in a non-faith school.
Summary of contents
The book covers the main arguments of the current ‘faith schools’ debate; provides practical guidance on essential elements including inspection and governance; and relates the fascinating history of faith schools since the mid-19th century. A workbook is included as a framework for reflection on your own school and community.
This book can be read from beginning to end for a great insight into the range of aspects of leading a faith school - and can also be consulted on a need-to-know basis by busy school leaders preparing for inspection, working with the community or reviewing provision of collective worship and RE.
Part 1: The history and evolution of faith schools - from 1833 to the present day
Part 2: Building the school community - governance, stakeholders, funding, diversity
Part 3: Ethos and distinctive character - inspection, RE, collective worship, leadership and management
Part 4: The faith schools debate - exploring the main arguments, including: Are faith schools divisive? Do faith schools teach creationism rather than evolution? Do faith schools brainwash their pupils? Does God raise standards?
Part 5: Leading a faith school workbook - learning, reflecting, planning
This book is written for established headteachers of church schools who want a reliable and up-to-date reference book to hand. They will be particularly interested in the help it gives in Part 3 ‘Ethos and Distinctive Character’, for example ‘Towards inspection’. There is also a section here on ‘Children and Spiritualaity.’ This is how it begins, summing up for me one of the most important aspects of our church schools:-
“One of the distinctive features of a faith school is the openness with which spirituality can be discussed. Because this is a safe environment where the language of religion is acceptable, students have opportunities they do not have in non-faith schools to explore life’s big questions in a context that offers answers, being rooted in what are seen as great spiritual truths that do not change …”
This book will be particularly useful for new headteachers who are finding their way as leaders of a church school; and for aspiring headteachers who want to know what is distinctive about leading a church school. Diocesan DDEs and Advisers will want a copy for reference, as it brings together all those news-cuttings you’ve kept and can never lay your hands on. I’ve already got ‘Post-it’ stickers in this file, marking particular pages. If your diocese runs an Early Headship Provision course, Part 5 is a ‘Workbook’ with over forty worksheets to choose from for use on your course. This Workbook sets personal work on all the information in the file, and will be extremely useful for headteachers doing MAs on leading church schools. The detail and historical context given makes it appropriate for higher education.
“But what about the price?” I hear you say. Well, it is expensive, but Optimus Education is known for the quality and relevance of its material and is not afraid to charge for it. It has a loyal following of schools who value its support. This is a hefty A4 folder of 276 pages, written in an easy prose, with tables of details where appropriate. You wouldn’t think twice about paying £125 for a day’s course – this may not have a meal thrown in, but it will last you far longer.
Jan Thompson. Assistant Director of Education, Rochester Diocese