Judgement‘Achieve’ implies that there must be something against which such an achievement is judged. The Christian value of ‘Judgement’, often caricatured as hellfire and brimstone, is actually vital to the effective running of any community, be it a school, a local community or a nation. We are called to develop self-judgement, to weigh up what is good and how good it is. We are also charged with developing this self-judgement in others. Today it is more commonly referred to as self-awareness but without the judgement dimension, it is unhelpful. It is one thing for a pupil to be self-aware, and to know that being violent is something they do but what we need to establish is that to behave in such a way is damaging to them and to others, and they should be called to account for their actions and then supported in changing their behaviour.
Jesus, when he tells the story of the sheep and the goats explains that a lack of judgement can be costly. “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or in prison, and did nothing for you?” Matt 25:44 The lack of self-judgement had a detrimental effect on others, on God, and ultimately a detrimental effect on those who lacked it.
It is only where the value of judgement is applied, that the value of grace has any relevance. You can’t receive grace, undeserved kindness, if you do not recognise that you do not deserve it in the first place. To recognise this requires self-judgement. Let us aim to ensure that we develop in ourselves and our pupils a sense of self-judgement so that we can know what is good, how good it is, and strive to achieve it.
CommitmentThe Christian value of ‘Commitment’ flows from the stream of ‘Achievement’. The Scientist Thomas Edison is reported to have said that Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. This indicates that commitment is a universal value and is not confined to a Christian ethos. However the nature of commitment in a Christian ethos reflects not only a desire to not be directed by events but a willingness to tackle things we do not particularly want to do, but which we recognise need to be dealt with for the good of all. This is why it is part of the ‘Achievement’ stream because great achievement can only be gained by dedicated commitment. Commitment implies a determination to do what we can to take control of our lives. This value is one learned more by example than by anything else. If the school is not committed to its task, the pupils will take note and respond accordingly. That is why it is so important to show our pupils that we are proud of our own academic achievements and to celebrate these through, amongst other things, the wearing academic dress at celebratory events. To be committed is to value that to which we are committed; in the case of a church school with a Christian ethos, a seeking after the truth that sets us free. As Jesus showed in the garden of Gethsemane, commitment can be a costly business. “Father, if it be your will, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Lk 22:4
AcceptanceIn order to ‘Achieve’ we need to value ‘Acceptance’. This is the other side of the commitment ‘coin’. As human beings we are generally dissatisfied with our condition and that, in itself, is not a bad thing. It is right and good to be aware and dissatisfied with the imperfect and damaged nature that is the Christian view of people in this life. However, this dissatisfaction can run so deep within our personal and social lives that it becomes a cancer eating away at our very selfhood. This can lead to us trying to address the dissatisfaction with material things which may be expensive but have little real value and do not end up making us any happier with ourselves. Alternatively, we can seek to destroy that which is good around us because we convince ourselves that we don’t deserve it. We will all have come across children who exhibit these traits to a greater or lesser extent.
“In Christ God chose us before the world was founded, to be dedicated, to be without blemish in His sight, to be full of love; and He destined us….to be accepted as His children through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1: 4-5) This is tremendous: God has accepted us for what we are, ‘warts and all’, if we have put our trust in Him and we have joined the divine ‘family’. As with every family, each of us has different talents and different perspectives. In a school with a Christian ethos, we need to enable our children to value themselves as they are. A ‘come as you are’ attitude but recognising that the purpose of education is that we don’t stay that way but grow into the person God created us to become. Such a school can play an important role in enabling all our children, whatever their ability, size, background, ethnicity, culture or experiences in life to accept their God-given life, and so make something more of it.
These are twin prongs: we need to accept ourselves, because God has accepted us as ‘His children’; so must we accept others because they have already been accepted by God. As such, we should be a community to which ‘Everyone is Welcome’, where we recognise that ‘Nobody is Perfect’ and where we encourage aspiration in one another, considering that ‘Anything is Possible’, dreaming dreams and working to see them come to fruition for the good of all. Such is the Christian value of ‘Acceptance’
HumilityIf awe and wonder creates the foundation for inspiring pupils, it also establishes the basis for the recognition that there is always more to learn. This leads on to the value that should under pin our work as a Church of England High School, that of humility. The value of humility is essential if pupils are to achieve and expand their horizons throughout their lives.
In the Bible, in the book of Job, we read “Then Job said to the Lord ‘I know that you can do all things and that no purpose is beyond you. But I have spoken of great things which I have not understood, things too wonderful for me to know. I knew of these then only by report, but now I see with my own eyes. Therefore I melt away; I repent in dust and ashes’” This was a hard lesson for Job to learn. (If you don’t know the story, have a read) This is Job’s acknowledgement that in learning about the Universe, there is always more to learn, to discover and to understand. The mark of a true learner is that of humility. Humility gives us the ability to recognise that our own views may need to be recast in the light of new knowledge or understanding. It enables us to recognise the need to respect, listen to, and weigh up the views of others. By modelling humility, and instilling it into our pupils, we will equip them more effectively as learners. This should enable them to remain life-long learners. We create the scaffolding that ensures that they can achieve.
RationalityTo ‘Achieve’ we need to be able to enquire rationally into a range of matters. As human beings we have the ability to judge and discriminate, to sift evidence and evaluate it, to solve problems and determine answers but these are all dependent on the questions we ask at the start. In the age of the World Wide Web, the need to ask the right questions has never been more important because the evidence available to us is vast and of variable quality. Yet to be human is not just to be rational. Indeed, humans are often quite irrational and some of humankind’s greatest accomplishments are due to an irrational response which defies the odds, and some of its atrocities are based in rational argument.
In Christian education, we are called by God to encourage rationality but not to suggest that all of life’s problems can be solved by a rational approach. In lessons, every child at Bury CE High School is entitled to learn that asking the right questions in the right way is important for flourishing and growth.
We see this embodying of the rational message within the wider complexities of humanity in the Bible. The rational ‘logos’ or ‘word’ becomes a human being in the person of Jesus, the Christ. “The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us” John 1:14
Risk‘Achieve’ is something that we all recognise as one of the central purposes of our school. We know all about ‘expected progress,’ and ‘more than expected progress’. Yet, in order to achieve more than expected progress, pupils often have to take a few risks.
Risk is essential to learning. If we do not risk we will never learn. Life is a risky business! God is in the business of risk. Indeed it has been said that faith is spelt R.I.S.K.
From the start of the Bible, this is evident. “In the middle of the garden God set the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” Gen 2:9
The Christian Value of ‘risk taking’ is all about valuing risk as a means of growth and positive development, and not as a way to gain an adrenalin rush. We need to teach our pupils to recognise risk, to weigh up risk, to assess whether the risk leads to growth and positive development and to take those risks that enable us to develop as people, to be courageous and adventurous while, at the same time, being caring and helpful towards those who take risks on our behalf.
We need to provide our pupils with the information to allow them to make good risk assessments so that they will be able to flourish in life and achieve all that God has in store for them. This means that, we too, need to make good risk assessments, (including the formal ones) and to take those risks in our professional practice which will enable us to grow as practitioners.
We need to give pupils the desire to see what lies over the horizon. We need to encourage pupils to take the risk to go and see what lies over the horizon. To achieve this the staff and others associated with the school need to be prepared to make the journey over the horizon as well.
JusticeThe Christian value of ‘justice’ sits surprisingly in the Achievement strand of our ‘Believe’, ‘Achieve’ and ‘Inspire’ school vision. The reason for this is that ‘justice’ in the biblical sense is all about empowering the powerless against the powerful. The prophet Amos sums it up when he challenges the powerful in Israel who ignore the plight of the lowly whilst focusing on their own comfortable life styles. He challenges them “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a never failing stream.” Amos 5:24. How does this relate to our church school?
As a school, we want to provide all our pupils and staff with equal opportunities to achieve and succeed. Yet the Christian value causes us to ensure that the way we provide equal opportunities takes the specific needs of people into account as well as making things available to all. An example of this would be to consider how the Special Educational Needs of some of our pupils are reflected in the way we put together the differentiation for our lessons. Today, in wider society, there are still great disparities in the work place for a variety of groups of people. We reflect on our curriculum, ensuring we do not reinforce these expectations unwittingly. The underlying messages we give through what we teach needs to reflect this. For example, in languages teaching, it should be about what we can give not about what we can get. It is not just focused on how we can use a language when we visit a country as a tourist or business person, but it is about how we can welcome the overseas refugee who needs our help. We promote role models who reflect society’s diversity, for example when we use a wheelchair user as a role model in a subject.
Justice, in the Christian understanding, is all about lifting up the lowly, so that we truly deliver equal opportunities that respond to peoples’ needs as well as providing opportunities to all so that all might achieve.