With all due regard to the danger of starting yet another article or letter with phrases such as ‘what we have learned from Covid 19’ or ‘what the pandemic has taught us’, I feel it necessary to highlight something that is critical to all of us, all of the time. Something that perhaps has only been highlighted more clearly by the current situation we all find ourselves in …. and that something is faith.
As a headmaster of a Catholic school I am perhaps honour bound to discuss faith and it is true that I like nothing more than a rousing Christological debate that takes in the nuancing of miaphysitism and monophysitism, with a touch of Nestorianism and Arianism for good measure but it is not that to which I am referring. As a Catholic school Leweston promotes faith in God, and Christ forms the centre of our teaching. His example is critical to how we view ourselves and others in all that we do. I believe, however, that we also teach our pupils the wider significance of faith, to have faith in themselves, others and the future.
Faith in oneself comes from that inner belief that one has the ability to carry on throughout the most testing of times coming out the other side stronger and better equipped for the next phase of one’s life. School, Church and home must be the places where our young people learn this essential element to survival. We need to teach our pupils that to take risks, have grit, resilience and high expectations are all one and the same thing: faith in one’s own abilities. If you strip back the educational jargonese – which I admit I am prone to lapse into- what we are really teaching our children is to be able to cope with the increasingly diverse situations that may, and probably will, arise in their lifetime. Education, like life, is not a railway line of stations at neat intervals but a drive up the Hardknott pass in the pouring rain and what will get you there safely is the faith you have in yourself. We teach them that faith in oneself is not arrogance, but a celebration of the God given gifts one has to perform well, seize opportunities and take the next step. Our pupils may draw on a spiritual strength to do this, but they may have a more individual approach. It is the job of any good school to bring out this skill and provide opportunities for it to be practised and learnt, ready to face the test of job interviews, mortgages and second hand car purchases. To raise their own children without taking the temperature of a new-born every hour throughout the night for two nights straight the day they come back from the hospital (I admit that was a personal example there).
We also instil faith in others. A school needs to make certain that its pupils understand their place in society and their duty to their fellow citizens. Trust is the cornerstone of our community and faith in those around you and what you are being told is essential to progress. It should be noted that we must teach this as a critical analytical faculty that doesn’t lay them open to being taken advantage of. Rather it allows them to be free to make choices without anxiety. We encourage a faith in action approach that goes beyond simply assuring our pupils play a passive role in their lives; they should seize that inner strength from the skills they have learnt and believe that they can make a significant change and contribution to the lives of those around them.
Finally, the above all point to having faith in the future. At the moment many of the pupils across the UK and the world will be finding this harder than at any other time. They see the adults around them equally failing to come to terms with the situation we have all found ourselves in and there is no one person who we can turn to for the answers. In order to protect our children’s future as a school we ensure that we maintain their faith and hope in a positive outcome. We hope that we have throughout this trying time given our pupils that faith, the tools for them to sustain it and the belief that they can encourage it in others.
Senior School Headmaster