School leaders, clergy and governors from Church of England Schools in the Diocese of York met for the annual diocesan Education Conference on the 10th June.

Entitled 'Embracing the Future: Church Schools as Communities of Hope' and hosted by Andrew Smith, Diocesan Director of Education, and the Rt Revd Paul Ferguson, Bishop of Whitby and Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education, the day was a chance for the Church school community to reconnect in person again as the event been postponed on two previous occasions due to the constraints of the pandemic.

Meeting at Burn Hall, Huby, the day focused on how Church schools play their part in the wider mission of the Diocese to live Christ’s story and the ways in which Church schools build flourishing communities of hope. Speakers included the Archbishop, Caroline Weir (Christian Aid) and Dr Margaret James (Director of the Church school Inspection process, SIAMS). Each speaker focussed on Church schools as communities of hope and the way in which the Church school’s Christian vison directs all that is done for children, young people, adults and the wider community the school serves.

The Archbishop spoke of the way ethos and values in Church schools are linked to practices and beliefs. Often Church schools are the embodiment of service to their communities, honouring God as places of prayer and seeking ways to serve the whole person. Through their theologically rooted visions, Church schools offer hope to communities.

Caroline exemplified how Church schools raise up and encourage children and young people to be courageous advocates for justice and encouraged us all to become activists for change. We do because Jesus did, and this informs our actions and curriculum choices today.

Margaret encouraged school leaders and governors to embrace the future by asking, 'What do you yearn for, and what do you see as the needs of your community?' She explained how accountability through inspection is a good thing, but that inspection must be done with integrity, honesty and respect; vision for the future must be driven by the needs of the school and its community and not the needs of an inspection.

Andrew Smith, Diocesan Director of Education, said, "It was fantastic to join again as a network of school leaders, clergy and governors to focus on how our Church schools offer themselves in service to the communities across the Diocese. Our Church schools are an integral part of our diocesan mission to Live Christ’s Story and our speakers really helped us all to think through how we do that in each community represented at the conference. We have missed meeting in person and therefore this year more than ever gave a chance to network and reconnect with colleagues, some of whom we have only ever met on screen! It was a fabulous day, full of challenge and encouragement to face the coming school year with hope."