How should we view a story like this? Much of Britain’s educational heritage has come from the Church. These days it can be recognised in many forms; approximately one-third of all pupils in the UK attend a state-sponsored church school although, along with many academies with a Christian basis, they vary in the degree to which they express their Christian ethos in the life of the school. In the independent sector, there is an equally wide range of ways that Christianity is represented, from cathedral schools to small independent establishments like those belonging to CEE or the CST.

This wide spread is indicative of a broad interpretation within the Church of how Christians should be involved in education. Do we have a calling, a duty, to be involved for the sake of our own children, or for the sake of everyone else’s? What does being salt and light in the educational system mean and what does it look like in 2017? What is the best expression, as far as schools are concerned, of the passionate desire of God towards the children and young people of our nation?

It is a complex and somewhat controversial issue but the ten schools highlighted by Ofsted are led and supported by those who have taken these questions seriously enough to establish, fund and run schools. This has involved hard work, significant sacrifice and a good deal of faith. They have to operate in a context where goalposts are frequently moved, rules changed and officials often replaced. It is tough for anyone, anywhere to run a good school and the task is not made any easier when funds are restricted and resources and people are in short supply. We should bear this in mind before being too quick to draw conclusions about how effective our brothers and sisters are when we don’t immediately understand their perspective.

Equally, we must not imagine that any other interpretation of an appropriate Christian response to the issues in education is any less valid. One of the hugely encouraging trends in the Church, both in Britain and the rest of Europe, is the number and variety of ways that Christians are being salt and light in the system. It is almost inevitable that a greater number of people involved will develop a wider range of answers to the questions. In fact it is healthy, provided that there is mutual support, love and a desire to see God glorified and his kingdom growing.