Our school, along with others in the Christian school’s movement, has moved from a position of being family lead to a position of being a ministry to families in the widest sense. Families are sacrificing in order to send their children to Christian schools in the belief that they are the right place for their children to be. This might be a choice before God or a choice made because of the circumstances of a child’s needs. Parents and carers may be believers or unbelievers but all want the best education for the children entrusted to them. To be high quality schools we need to have high quality teachers committed to our ideals.
I believe families are less able than they were when these schools were established to be part of the daily running of Christian schools. Fewer families are able to offer their time for free and so the burden of running the schools has moved to a waged workforce. Our workforce needs paying fairly in order to preserve workers’ households. This makes the schools relatively expensive to run because of current economies of scale. The schools are too small to be sustainable without sacrificial wages or a volunteer workforce.
Christian schools need to build capacity and make strategic plans to do so if they are to be sustainable. Part of this I believe includes the pooling of people resources. Our foundational resource is the people who began the Christian schools movement and have the subject expertise to bring on the next generation of teachers. They are the DNA of the movement.
Given that we believe that this Christian schools movement is part of God’s economy for the local church, where are we being lead? We cannot change our vision because on our circumstances, but we can look at our circumstances and see what they are teaching us about our core task.
I would like to focus on our use of technology and how this empowers us to bring forward a new generation of teachers for our Christian schools. We need people who are Jesus centred, strong in the church and have a heart for the poor. We need people who are committed learners, willing to reflect on their teaching practice. We need the next generation of Christian schools’ leaders trained as teaching practitioners in a technology rich culture.
I believe the context I am describing means we have to move away from a staff who are completely subject focused and specialists, to a staff more learning focused with developing specialisms. I propose an apprenticeship programme for Christian teachers.
We value the gifts of subject leaders but, in a Christian School, it is wisdom we value principally and so we are looking for character leaders who can be supportive in the education of the children. We want learning mentors who are settled in the peace of Christ, love his church and strong in its mission. It is this way of life we want to model to our students, setting them in the path they should follow; to live in the way, truth and life that is Jesus.
The use of technology will enable us to gather our dispersed expertise to a virtual centre. From this virtual centre we can deliver high quality, distinctively Christian curricula, emulating face-to-face tuition, distributed online. Students can then be encouraged in their learning by mentors who are teacher apprentices within the Christian schools, who, as they become more proficient and expert, take a greater role in designing face-to-face personal learning programmes.
Teacher apprentices would need to be comfortably numerate and literate and open to further study. They would need to be part of a discipleship programme or outreach activity within their own churches. The school would be a centre of learning for all its staff with supported professional development. Teaching apprentices should be financed in open studies at a graduate level, preferably in the subjects they are teaching or in Education.
Teaching apprentices who are already graduates should be sponsored in post graduate studies at Masters level.
Teaching apprentices, themselves being learners, will be well placed to help in the personalisation of materials and the design of learning experiences, with the direction of local teaching leaders and the online course directors. When they have completed their studies they are then able to pursue professional studies or remain in teaching, themselves becoming leaders in the programme.
The vision is, Teaching Apprentices will have good GCSE results in Maths and English and A levels or equivalent in their area of study. Some may already be graduates. They will be embedded in local churches, work part time in our schools and be sponsored in part time or distance delivered studies, either in their subject areas, or in Education. They will be taught to design learning experiences for their students based on a central pool of learning designs overseen by subject specialists. These apprentices will achieve certification of tertiary education or gain a post graduate qualification with vocational experience.
The Open University offers open graduate programmes nationally (www.open.ac.uk) as do local institutions. There are also part time study options. These often take up to 6 years to complete.
The vision needs praying about and discussing.
I would like to explore its feasibility and trial it as a case study in our humanities department (History, Geography and Religious Studies).
I would like someone to explore available graduate programmes and to look at the possibility of developing a government accredited advanced apprenticeship programme (www.apprenticeships.org.uk/Types-of-Apprenticeships/Education-and-Training/Supporting-Teaching-and-Learning-in-Schools.aspx ).
If there is anyone who would like to explore this with me I would be glad to discuss it. Initially we will need to make online courses and resources available, based on course already being used or provided by examination boards. We will then need to decide how apprentices can be supported locally and online. This will mean finding online subject directors from across the Christian Schools Trust or elsewhere who are enthusiastic about collaborating online.