A few years ago I was involved in mediation in an African country after severe fighting had driven many people from their homes. A sports stadium had been turned into a refugee of camp. Rows and rows of white tents, packed together, stretched into the distance. It had become a town of 25,000 people.
In the middle of the camp was a clear area, under some trees. Crowds of children were sitting in the hot sun. I went close to see what was happening and found that a local church had created a school, so that the children should not miss too much education just because of war. Each class had up to 250 people in it, writing on scraps of paper with just a blackboard as a teaching aid.
The church is still a massive provider of education in the UK with about a million children going to some kind of church school. Benedict Biscop C.E. Academy is just one example, but it is a special one because of the quality of its staff and the standards it reaches through the hard work and good discipline of its children.
What makes a church school special? Lots of things, most of them impossible to measure. But some can be identified. It puts children first, as do many schools, but a church school does so, because our faith makes it clear that in putting children first we are doing what God wants. Secondly, in being a safe place to explore the great challenge of education and in seeking to ensure that children are educated not just taught. They must be able to make up their own minds about faith, but based on knowledge not rumour, and to learn to be those who will make a difference in this region. All this comes because in church schools we believe that every child is created in God's image, and is uniquely special whatever their gifts and abilities.
This school is very special, and it produces special people, both staff and children. My prayer isfor the presence of Jesus to guide and inspire everything that happens here.
May God bless you.
Bishop of Durham
Benedict Biscop Academy is a Church of England school within the Diocese of Durham and serves the Wearmouth (Sunderland) Deanery. The school became an Academy in 2012 and is an average size primary school with 210 full time pupils and 30 part-time nursery pupils on roll. We provide education for children from 3 to 11 years. The Academy’s standard admission number is 35.
The Academy was built in 1972 and opened as a Voluntary Aided Church of England Primary School, which was extended to include a nursery in 2000. Further building work has created; a Foundation Stage in 2011, a learning centre, disabled facilities, medical room, extended 3 classrooms, an entrance which is very safe and welcoming and a meeting room. Our ‘postinia’ provides quiet space for reflection and prayer.
Benedict Biscop CE Academy holds several awards, recognising our excellence. We have Basic Skills Award 5 (2011), several Achievement Awards, Investors in People GOLD Award (2011), Healthy School Award (2008), Advanced Quality in Study Support Award (2012), Every School Day Counts Awards - for highest attendance in the City, Sport England Award, International Award (2010), Becta IT Award (2009) and Gold Arts mark Award , Green Flag (2011)
The Academy is designed in three blocks of teaching areas separated by a central hall. The areas of the Academy are very closely linked and staff know all the children through daily contact.
The policy of the Academy is to register the children, in mixed ability classes within each year group. Each class has its own teacher who is responsible for general progress across the curriculum and for pastoral care. There are full time teaching assistants in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. There are full time teaching assistants who support each class in Key Stage 2 for some of the weekly timetable. In addition we have IT support throughout the Academy.
The Academy is currently developing a partnership with a school in Harbin, China. Through a European Comenius Award we are developing links with schools in France, Italy, Turkey, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria with children visiting some of these countries during 2012 and 2103.