To see ourselves as others see us


Christ Church School had been on OFSTED alert for months.   So when some weeks ago I mentioned to Barbara, the head teacher, that I would be flying to Washington on Wednesday, 20 June, we both knew then when the inspectors would turn up.

So the school phone rang on 18 June to give two days notice, right on schedule

Actually I was able to have a long phone conversation with the lead inspector on the Tuesday. I could not see his reaction as he asked his concluding question – “So as chair of the Governing Body, how would you assess the school?”  I thought I might as well be honest:

“Outstanding in every area!”

And that’s the remarkable conclusion the OFSTED inspection team came to, all the more extraordinary since OFSTED raised the bar in January.

So our congratulations to Barbara Stevens and the entire Christ Church team, staff, parents and members of the Governing Body.  Oh, and the children!  Total dedication with a huge attention to detail.  Our thanks.

(I can email you a copy of the report).

I mentioned all this to the staff team at Christ Church, Charlottesville, the church in Virginia which their Bishop (who opened our Ministry Centre two years ago) recommends we link up with.

A most useful visit, one I will come back to in more detail once I have written my report.  However, one of the unexpected benefits was to see our own church in Aughton in a different light, “to see ourselves as others see us.”

The spirit of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, pervades Charlottesville.  It seems that he served on the committee responsible for Christ Church’s first building in 1826.

However, it was his drafting of the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom which is still hugely influential – firmly separating church and state. He wrote: “Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state is absolutely essential in a free society.”

In my presentation to the staff team at Charlottesville I mentioned how well our church school had done in the OFSTED inspection.  They were intrigued that our church even had a school and asked whether we as a church were allowed to have any influence.  I then explained that we were obliged by law (School Standards and Framework Act 1998) to offer regular collective worship “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character” each day.

Well, they simply could not get their minds around this, not just that we could teach the Christian faith but that we were legally obliged to do so.  And yet we take this privilege so readily for granted.

Reflecting on my childhood, St Nicholas’ Blundellsands and later Waterloo Grammar School were hugely significant in my Christian understanding.  To this day I often recall during our Sunday worship Mr Aspinall’s teaching in Junior 4 on the prayer book collects .

In fact, the Diocese certainly recognises the invaluable part our church schools play in our work and witness for Christ, something to be prized and developed for the sake of our society, not just for the benefit of the church.

So we had a wonderful two weeks in north America, despite walking into a record-making heat wave.  We visited Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia as well as DC.  Four states along with DC declared a state of emergency while we were there.  Guess which four?