Dear Friends,
As I sit here writing this letter in the middle of May my mind wanders back in time...I know all the jokes about wandering minds, thank you...and I remember what this time of year has meant to me in the past. Maypole dancing as a child and then helping with the same activity at my children’s school later on, lots of family birthdays coming up, long sunny days ahead to go exploring on my bike where the M25 now runs, catching the train to Wimbledon to watch the tennis after school when people used to give away their tickets after tea. Mmmmm.....but I also recall revising and school exams and that awful sick feeling, stopping you eating, that went along with it. I used to worry myself silly as the staff put so much pressure on us to do well or we would be letting the school down!! I never heard a word about my best being good enough and several of my friends were labelled failures from an early age because they found academic work so difficult.

The reason that I mention this is that I have been supporting particular children sitting their SATS tests in a local school and it’s heart-breaking watching them struggle when English isn’t their first language or they have other learning and emotional challenges. It is still a ‘one size fits all’ approach rather than trying to measure children as individual people, capable of a lot more than the system would have us believe. Each child, as each one of us, has a God-given potential which in the right and loving conditions can be reached...and each one of us is called to help in this process. Fortunately the school I am talking about is very caring but the external pressures make it harder and harder to fully support these children, in fact all of the children. At what point does our faith compel us to stand up and defend the God-given rights of each individual child and member of Staff and how do we do so? When does measurement of standards become an exercise in itself rather than a way to improve teaching and learning patterns? Why is common sense apparently so uncommon! It is pretty obvious that none of us learn anything effectively when we are unhappy or feel insecure but it’s then that we allow the negatives to stick and weigh down the rest of our lives.

God instructs us to love and look after our neighbours, especially the vulnerable, which must include children and their care-givers. If you can offer prayer and practical help in your local school please do so, if you can offer support in some small way to a family next door please do so, if your faith can inform the way you should vote for a fair democracy in this country please allow it to do so. We can only love God with all our heart when we love those who surround us, when we learn to love ourselves and when we ourselves feel loved. So let’s get on with the task ahead by taking a first small step, as individuals and as a body of believers in Christ. Amen