Comments: July 2015 General Synod - Outline Timetable

The final item on the last day on investment and climate change - chamber sure to be packed - is interesting. It looks related to the Oxford Diocesan Synod motion on essentially the same subject, albeit likely reframed. If so it would be an interesting take on synodical government to put up the amended motion you want to debate, rather than arguing directly for amendment of the diocesan motion, having the diocesan motion in pole position. The explanation of all this will be interesting. Those interested in investment and climate change will be well advised to read the ethical investment sections of the Church Commissioners Annual Report (full version) which have received a significant upgrade this year. The National Investing Bodies have proved adept at avoiding full Synodical scrutiny of their activities, and a large proportion of the funds they hold are outside the direct control of Synod. The big danger is if they imagine they are therefore accountable to no-one. The strategic question for the Church is how to maintain appropriate accountability and influence with the structures we currently have. The Investing Bodies have, over the long term, occasionally believed their own publicity to the detriment of the Church and the value of their investments - so the presence of a critical friend is important, and when the Investing Bodies become defensive about criticism it should be read as a danger signal.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Friday, 22 May 2015 at 8:46pm BST

Any discussion of shared leadership in Church schools should be treated with caution. The issue is more complex and far-reaching than present proposals consider- these are designed rather too much as a pragmatic set of tools in the face of particular current constraints but more vision is needed to set these issues in the context of the radically changing lives our youngest children are likely to face in mid-Century and beyond. The role of village schools, with their own headteacher, has a well-documented proud history too easily neglected for short-term considerations. The demands of larger numbers on leadership and governance are increasingly recognised as no instant panacea. Rather should we celebrate and sustain best present practice especially in a time of 'booming' revenues.

The close identity of schools with parents, and especially parents in difficult circumstances, as well as local communities, is a fundamental educational strength that is perhaps being under-sold in some current thinking. The loss of identity within shared priest practice is emerging similarly as concern in some dioceses.

Shared opportunities are fine but not at the expense of local identity and action which has seen some of the finest reports in national inspection databases coming from small village schools with their own leaders. More sophisticated, long-term thinking is possible that enables small-scale, human-scale concepts to reach children long locked into the hardships of urban living, not least our inner cities. The Gulbenkian Foundation sponsored book "Urban Village Schooling" well reflects such visionary new coincepts that a rapidly advancing technological age will thrust upon us.

No business would assess its economic prospects on the shallow superficial basis that argues small schools cost too much when long-term alleged savings fail to materialise and long-term small schools deliver profit to taxpayers. Myopic adherence to limited, often unfair critique has seen small schools disappear by the hundred and National Society proposals that diminish philosophical well-being and effective local practice will add further to a process of ultimate decline we should be resisting.

Posted by Mervyn Benford at Saturday, 23 May 2015 at 12:12pm BST
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