Nine years on...
November 2016 marks the 9 year anniversary of SchoolsworkUK (formerly schoolwork.co.uk). We launched the project at ‘Youthwork the Conference' in November 2007 during a wonderful weekend up in windy Southport, followed by a great weekend in Eastbourne a week later. There was a school disco (including a Grease number featuring Martin Saunders and Rachel Gardner), seminars led by the SchoolsworkUK team, early days featuring Lat Blaylock and Mark Roques and the most complicated scaffolding-exhibition stand you ever saw (we have learnt our lesson since then!).
It’s been an incredible nine years so far and we have come a long way in exploring how we can best be a resource and support to the church in helping to deliver high quality work within schools over that time. Does anyone remember the days of the schoolwork.co.uk podcast? Or the storytelling tour around the UK we held back in 2008? We have spent years investing in and delivering training, some of which has been accredited; we have brought hundreds of schools workers together at our September commissioning events in London, Luton and Leeds; hosted a symposium at the House of Commons; come up with a little idea to make playing cards for a mentoring session in a school in Luton which has now grown to selling over 7,000 packs; taken over Youthwork Magazine in 2010 making it all about work in schools; and connected with hundreds of thousands of visitors to our website, who have downloaded resources, commented on ideas and provided ideas and resources of their own.
What a privilege it has been to serve and get to know so many incredible Christians passionate about connecting with and serving their local schools. A quote from Lillie Jenkins (a member of the original Youthscape team who helped launch SchoolsworkUK) back on the blog during our launch weekend in 2007 sums up this for us:
"The highlight of this whole experience has definitely been the people we've met. Both the early day, and the seminar Amy and I led today, were just so great because of the amazing people we were talking to and here on the stand. It’s just been incredible to hear people's stories, passion and commitment."
That sentiment really has been consistent over the 9 years I’ve been honoured to lead this project. The schools workers, youth workers and other volunteers faithfully visiting schools have inspired us to continue developing our work, creating new ideas and staying committed to our goal to see more, better and different work taking place in schools around the UK from Christian visitors.
However there is still a long way to go. In 2016 we have an education system in more flux than ever before; we are working in schools with staff under increasing demand, where students are not only faced with academic pressures, but social ones too and media adding expectations that are unattainable. Anxiety amongst not only pupils but also school staff is higher than its ever been before. Schools are still the place we as the church need to be to present, to offer hope, reassurance, and to make a significant difference with this generation.
It is with this heart that I share the following scripture, from the Message version - Galatians 6:9-10:
So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
Coming up in 2017...
A new focus for us here at SchoolsworkUK in 2017 will be a programme of professional development for Christians working in schools, based on an 8 day programme offering visitors to schools a variety of equipping days to choose from. We will be piloting the programme from January - June 2017 with five equipping days, based in Luton and live streaming up to Leeds for each of those days. In September we plan to launch the full programme streaming to various centres around the UK. Also look out for new resources coming in 2017, and an increased emphasis on resources for 16-19s.
I am on annual leave for the majority of December and so leave you in the very capable hands of Lahna, our 16-19s Specialist here at schoolsworkUK. Have a wonderful second half of the Autumn Term and a fantastic Christmas break when it comes!
Amy Tolmie, SchoolsworkUK Project Director