Christian education charity TLG is looking forward to celebrating Education Sunday on 16 February, a day during which churches are encouraged to pray specifically for education in the UK.
With 74 per cent of British churches currently involved in youth work, and TLG aims to inspire and strengthen this connection through helping to establish long-lasting partnerships between schools, churches and their local communities.
The Church has always played a vital role in education in UK. The earliest schools in England date from the arrival of St Augustine and Christianity around the end of the sixth century. The King's School in Canterbury claims to be the oldest, built by St Augustine in 597 alongside an Abbey, and church schools remain a significant part of the education system today. Approximately one million children currently attend schools run by the Church of England.
Education was once reserved for the wealthy, but in the 18<sup>th century churches began reaching out to those who would not otherwise have access to it. Editor of the Gloucester Journal Robert Raikes set up the first Sunday School in the 1780s, which provided education to working children on their only day off from the factory.
By 1785, an estimated 250,000 English children were regularly attending Sunday School, where they were taught traditional subjects including reading and writing as well as lessons from the Bible. In fact very few schools existed that were not run by the Church until the 19<sup>th century.
TLG is excited to share with modern day churches about how they can help and support children who are struggling. Congregations will be offered practical ways to meet the needs of the marginalised in their own communities, and will be encouraged to consider how they might be able to offer their time and resources.
"Churches and schools are a core part of every community," says Jonny Proud, Supporter Development Coordinator at TLG.
"Churches uniting with schools and supporting them is an amazing opportunity to be meeting a real need."
The latest statistics from the Department of Education reveal that almost 310,000 children and young people were excluded from school last year, a significant proportion of whom were under the age of 6. Though many may think these are issues exclusive to inner-city schools, Proud notes that it is simply not the case.
"It's not just the big cities. There are children struggling in every town and village. Churches can't know how big the problem is until they get involved in their communities," he says.
"I would encourage every church to connect with a local school."
By working in partnership with local churches across the UK, TLG's Early Intervention uses Christian volunteers to provide help and mentoring to primary school children struggling with social, emotional or behavioural difficulties across the country on a one-to-one basis.
TLG work nationally to provide a second chance for these young people, and all those who are at a crisis point in education. It began as a small youth project in one of the most deprived areas of Bradford, but is now widely recognised by both the government and church bodies for its transformative work.
This Education Sunday, TLG wants to inspire the local church to invest in their communities.
"Our prayer is that churches will reach out and be a light to schools; that children who are struggling and for whom school is a place of real anxiety and stress will be encouraged and supported," says Proud.
"We want children to have fun and enjoy being at school, and for those who feel hopeless in education to be given a second chance.
"It really is all about hope," he finishes.
TLG are hosting 3 Church Partnership Forums for churches to discover how they could partner with TLG in reaching out to their local schools.
Tuesday 4th March - London
Wednesday 26th March - Birmingham
Wednesday 30th April - Bradford
For more information go to www.tlg.org.uk