The Bible commands parents to train their children in accordance with God’s Word. In particular, it places the responsibility on fathers: ‘Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4).
This training is to be ongoing: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
‘These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’ (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).
In response to these commands, some Christian parents have chosen to home-educate their children. Today there is an increasing amount of Christian curriculum material available to support these families. In some places, home-educating families meet together regularly to participate in activities and events.
However, the majority of Christian parents in the UK choose to send their children to school. The question I ask such parents to consider is, ‘How is my children’s school helping me to fulfil my God-given responsibility to train my children in the ways of the Lord?’
It is a vital question, since most children will spend a total of around 18,000 hours in school (30 hours per week, 40 weeks per year, for up to 15 years).
Let’s consider three important influences on children who are brought up in Christian families — home, school and church.
Christian parents should be teaching their children the same biblical truths at home as they hear at church. But what are their children being taught at school? Does the children’s school pull against home and church?
Secular schools promote the mind of man as supreme and man’s good and development as the goal of education. Christian parents have to work hard to remedy the secular teaching their children are receiving.
But think of a school where God is supreme and his Word central to all areas of curriculum and practice, where the goal of education is the glory of God. A Christian school supports Christian parents in teaching about God and the world from a biblical perspective. For children from a Christian family, the school’s teaching strengthens that of the home and church: ‘a cord of three strands is not quickly broken’ (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Most Christian schools also welcome children from non-Christian families, so these pupils too have the wonderful privilege of a Christ-centred education.
So what are the features of a Christian school? It teaches children God’s Word and depends on the work of the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in their lives.
It teaches a curriculum based on God’s work in his world — his perfect creation, the effects of man’s fall into sin, the results of Christ’s redemption and the future return of Christ as Saviour and Judge.
It employs Christian teachers. It trains children to think and question, and challenges them to compare secular thinking with biblical principles — ‘do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good pleasing and perfect will’ (Romans 12:2). It encourages parents to participate fully in the life of the school.
We should be grateful to God that, in the past, Christians have been at the forefront of education in the UK. Churches set up schools and some of these remain faithful to biblical truth today.
However, in the last century, the majority of schools have fallen into secular control. But, thankfully, there are still some opportunities today to develop schools with a Christian ethos, for example, through the ‘Free schools’ movement.
Independent Christian Schools
During the last 40 years, churches and groups of parents have set up Independent Christian Schools. There are now about 100 such schools around the UK.
In order to maintain their freedom to teach a curriculum based on biblical truth, these schools do not accept government funding. Consequently, they usually charge fees which are generally kept as low as possible, to ensure that any parents who want their children to attend can afford them.
Sacrifices are made by parents and teachers, who often work for much lower wages than they could earn in a secular school.
Research has shown that the great majority of teenage pupils in Christian schools profess a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Boys express the same kind of faith and level of faith as girls and the older teenagers are as clearly Christian as those who are younger.
These results contrast starkly with other studies, which have all shown a sharp decline in religious belief through teenage years, and boys being less ‘religious’ than girls.
Early results from ongoing research projects indicate that many former pupils from these new Christian schools retain their Christian faith as they move on in life (Swimming against the tide: an investigation of the new Independent Christian Schools: what kind of citizens are they producing? Sylvia G. Baker , PhD dissertation, University of Warwick).
The battle is fierce and schools which proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of all are often under attack. It is not surprising that humanists and secularists are opposed to them, since their agenda is to secure a totally secular education system.
Much prayer is needed for the preservation and growth of Christian schools.
I taught for 20 years in secular schools and was involved with running Christian Unions, taking assemblies and setting up a prayer group for parents and teachers. However, I began to ask myself, ‘How does my Christian faith affect the way I teach?’
I started to use some of the Charis materials (www.johnshortt.org/Pages/Charis.aspx), which opened my eyes to the opportunity to bring biblical truth into my maths lessons.
Once my appetite was whetted, I wanted more freedom to proclaim the whole truth of God. This led me to Emmanuel Christian School in Oxford (www.ecschool.org.uk), where I worked for ten years, the last six of which I was head teacher.
What a wonderful privilege it was to declare the wonders of our Lord Jesus Christ to children from both Christian and non-Christian homes and to see them responding to these truths!
For the next three years, I taught in secular schools, while I was working with a group of other teachers and parents to set up Trinity Christian School in Reading (www.trinitychristianschool.org.uk).
This school opened in September 2013, with just two pupils aged five and six. It is based in two rented classrooms, in a large Edwardian house in central Reading. I am the only paid teacher and ten volunteers support me with some teaching. Several of these bring their own children with them and often join in the lessons.
Once a week, the school joins with a local group of Christian home educators for their activities, which include trips, games and crafts. The school welcomes children from both Christian and non-Christian families.
In the autumn term topic of ‘Ourselves’, pupils learned how wonderfully God made their bodies; how God has designed families and the church is God’s family; and that Jesus came as a real human being to suffer for his people. At the harvest festival, the focus was on the school’s link with Taonga School in Zambia.
There are Christian schools all across the UK which aim to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ (see www.christianschoolstrust.co.uk and www.christianeducationeurope.org). Many are thriving and need more space, whereas others struggle to keep going. All depend on the Lord for his provision. However, compared with many countries around the world the UK lags behind in Christian schooling; we need more such schools!
As we see Christian freedoms being eroded in our country, we wonder how much longer we will be able to run Christian schools that teach the whole counsel of God. Please pray that the Lord will protect and prosper schools that aim to ‘train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it’ (Proverbs 22:6).