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Who’s responsible for education?

Parents

You are! The Bible teaches that parents are above all responsible for their children’s education. Parents are the primary nurturers, role models, socialisers and source of morals for their children. It is the parents whom God has invested with the highest authority for the wellbeing and education of their children. With the notable exception of some authoritarian
states, governments across the world accept the primacy of parental authority in the home and in education. The Universal
Declaration of Human Rights recognises this responsibility, stating that: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” This right is acknowledged in UK law.

Church

he Bible does not propose that parents should ever exercise their responsibility in isolation from a responsible community. Consequently, as the broader Christian family, the Church has an important collective role to play in education. The Bible does distinguish between the roles of parents and the Christian community. However, inasmuch as the Church represents one body, there is also a clear responsibility for the Church to support Christian parents and children in education because: “In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12.5). Alongside this connectedness in Christ, the role of the Church to support parents can also be seen in relation to biblical principles such as: the duty of leadership; the imperative for discipleship; and the responsibility of the whole Church as a learning community in which we are called to: Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our]
hearts to God (Colossians 3.16).

As such, church communities are called to encourage and support, both practically and prayerfully, Christian parents as teachers and Christian children as learners. Given the diverse nature of public and private education in the UK, it is clear
that this responsibility also extends to being interested and involved in the local schools. Alongside the obvious responsibilities of youth workers, this support can take a variety of forms such as: praying for and with school staff and/or students; pastoral support; being involved in assemblies, ceremonies and celebrations; missional outreach; conflict resolution; pre/after/extra-school activities; governance; and financially supporting the work of the school. One thing is clear for churches:
opting out is not an option. As the African proverb says: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”

State

It is the role of the state to serve parents by providing and maintaining education for their children, which is paid for by taxation, though some parents opt to send their children to independent schools or educate them at home.

Additionally, your local council must provide education for children who cannot go to school because they have been excluded, are ill, or have been injured. This could be at a hospital school, a pupil-referral unit, a further education college, or a work experience placement.

The framework for state schools varies considerably between the different countries of the United Kingdom:

In England state-maintained schools must use the National Curriculum which sets out what most children should be taught. However, academies, though state-funded, have significant freedoms in what they teach and do not have to follow the National Curriculum. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) inspects and regulates education services to ensure that standards are maintained. Ofsted operates in all English state-maintained schools and some independent schools. Most independent schools are monitored by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).

In Wales and Northern Ireland schools follow amended versions of the National Curriculum. In Northern Ireland, schools are inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), part of the Northern Ireland Department of Education. In Wales inspection is by Estyn, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and Training in Wales.

In Scotland all schools follow Curriculum for Excellence guidelines which emphasise the development of character as well as knowledge, understanding and skills. Curriculum for Excellence gives individual schools considerable flexibility to meet local needs. Scottish schools are inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) who are part of Education Scotland, a government agency which advises and supports all Scottish schools.

Published in For Churches For Families