Sunday, May 08, 2016

School Governors

A day conference for  chairmen (sadly no women at all participated though they were invited) and deputy chairmen of of Jesuit  Schools organised for Saturday at the Js' London HQ, turned out to be far more interesting than might have been expected.

Interestingly the Society of Jesus is directly  involved with  nine or more UK schools most of which were represented at the conference. Additionally  the chairman of the governors of Niels Steesens Gymnasium Kobenhavn Denmark attended. 

It was surprising (to me at least) to learn from Jakob that statistically at least only about 1% of the Danish population is catholic, with the majority, as in Iceland Norway, Sweden and Finland being Lutheran. The Reformation  in Europe in C16 and C17 clearly made an huge impact then and continues to do so though the waning of Christianity in C21  Europe and the rise of consumerism may be the more relevant issues today.

The coming together of governors from UK  secondary and primary fee paying or free VA schools, which were either founded by the SJs or which despite their Diocesan trusteeships desire to be affiliated to the Jesuit schools, must be  worthwhile for the Js and very beneficial for all the schools concerned. We were curious about word of another new school possibly joining the group in future months. Interesting to note that none of the state schools represented are Academies and the government's U turn yesterday on that issue is welcome.

I found personal  discussions  with other  governors over coffee and lunch to be very interesting and  helpful and even more so the breakout sections of the conference where small groups from different schools,  met to discuss specific issues that arose.

There were some sections of the conference which  had scope for considerable debate, for example under "Reconciliation and Peace in a Diverse Europe". Most governors attending probably considered that in the context of the forthcoming UK referendum on leaving or remaining in the EU, staying in would be apt. The swathe of refugees currently  traversing sea and land from Africa to reach European shores is a comparatively  recent crisis for all those nations  concerned. The disasters of WWI and WWII arguably need a united Europe to avoid similar European bloodshed recurring in such fashion again and if so the EU may be key, quite apart from seeking a common approach to the more recent  tragic wars in North Africa and elsewhere and the inhumanity of ISIL.

Many of us were not so much stumped by but had to reflect deeply  about, the section entitled "Responsiveness to the Dynamics of Change". Ensuring that students at the various schools learn about their apt responses  to changes in life generally in C21 is really only practical where school staff and governors themselves have reflected and learnt about possible ways forward.

The commitment to Social Justice section was slightly easier to discuss as this has been a common issue for the SJs for many years.

The Js mentioned two schools in the Middle East which are able to continue operating though with considerable difficulties. They are occasionally closed at least temporarily by "the authorities" but thankfully continue to provide huge services to their students. 

Another school was mentioned in I think Novosibirsk. Apparently  the Russians believe that they are unfairly treated by the West in many ways. That belief may have some substance though such is not helped by the huge issues affecting parts of Syria at present. Nonetheless visiting that school in Russia which the SJs are considering, is bound to be beneficial for all concerned.

A very interesting and fruitful day for all those concerned with schools and education - well done the SJs.

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