Diocese of Portsmouth

    Christians to support city pupils as School Pastors

    21 April 2016

    CHRISTIANS from Portsmouth’s churches will offer a listening ear to pupils – as School Pastors.

    School Pastors will be available to talk to pupils at lunchtimes

    The initiative, which allows volunteers to support young people in schools, is now being launched in Portsmouth. Similar schemes already exist in Gosport and on the Isle of Wight.

    And the first pupils to benefit will be those in Charter Academy, which is a Church of England secondary school. Christian volunteers will be available from September at lunchtimes to chat with students about any issues on their minds.

    It builds on the success of Street Pastors, who provide support and practical help late at night for those who go to pubs and clubs. Christians started to offer support to late-night revellers in Guildhall Walk in 2007 and now also patrol each week in Albert Road, Southsea.

    Sandra Morgan, from Christ Church, Portsdown, has been appointed as the co-ordinator for School Pastors in Portsmouth. She was previously vice-principal at Charter Academy until 2011, and helps to lead assemblies at Purbrook Infant School. She is also a Street Pastor in Portsmouth.

    She has invited anyone interested to find out more to come to North End Baptist Church, Powerscourt Road, at 2.30pm on Wednesday 27 April.

    “I’ve been a Street Pastor for eight years, and that has been great,” she said. “But I know that Les Isaac from the Ascension Trust, who created the idea, was particularly keen on helping those in schools who need support. 

    “There are teenagers who have low self-esteem, who are self-harming, and who are having problems with family situations who just need someone to talk to. I know from my time working in schools that teachers haven’t always got the time to help pupils as much as they would like with personal issues. But schools recognise that School Pastors can make a difference, and so they are happy to invite them in.

    “We’re going to pilot School Pastors at Charter Academy, coming in at lunchtime and getting to know pupils in the canteen or the playground. It’s about having a light hearted chat – not necessarily deep conversations all the time. And we’re not there to solve problems, just to listen.

    “It’s inter-denominational, so we hope to recruit from all Portsmouth’s churches. But we also want people who can commit themselves to being around for a while, as it takes time to build up good relationships.

    “There will be full training given before we start to go into the school in September. That will include training in listening, in youth culture, and how to handle issues presented. Each volunteer needs to be DBS checked and to have references from their own church. And there will be a commissioning service too.

    “Each volunteer will be there for one hour-and-a-half session each week and ideally we’d like a team to be there for three lunchtimes each week, but it depends how many volunteers we get.  And once we’ve piloted it at Charter, I’d like to think we could offer this to other secondary schools too.”

    School Pastors have been working in Brune Park Community School in Gosport since 2014. The two-year pilot scheme is now ending, and it’s hoped the initiative can become permanent. The team there run a support group for vulnerable children, and have been asked to help children with the transition from primary to secondary school.

    School Pastors have also been working on the Isle of Wight since 2012. Christian volunteers are available inside Medina College three lunchtimes a week. The team have been welcomed by the school, who appreciate the quiet work they do to help pupils with difficult issues.

    For more details about School Pastors, see: www.schoolpastors.org.uk. For details of the Portsmouth School Pastors initiative, please contact Sandra Morgan on portsmouth(at)schoolpastors.org.uk or 07722-377850.