Diocese of Portsmouth

    ‘Sunday School prompted me to join church school’

    17 Nov. 2022

    IT was partly her experience of helping at Sunday School that convinced Sharon James she should work in a church school.

    She joined St Mary’s Church in Funtington with her husband and children around 17 years ago and got involved in helping with the children’s work. It felt so inclusive and supporting that when a job came up at St Alban’s C of E Primary School, she decided to go for it.

    Her role as deputy head at the West Leigh school was her first in a C of E school. She’s still there now – and would recommend teaching in a church school to anyone else.

    “I’d not worked in a church school before, so had no firm preconceptions about it,” she said. “I’d started to attend church and got involved with the Sunday School, and church life. I found it relaxing, and inclusive – everyone was positive and wanting to support each other. I wondered how that would work in education too.

    “When the job came up here, I felt it would be good to explore something different. The Christian ethos was very palpable – there was a sense that everyone was welcome, everyone was special.

    “I think it took me another two or three years to unpick it, and discover what faith could offer in an education setting. I feel compelled to stay here because I can see how children leave this school comfortable in how they feel about themselves.”

    Sharon initially started teaching in Broadlea Primary School on the Isle of Wight 30 years ago, and only moved to the mainland when she got married. She was then at Redlands Primary School in Fareham, and taught for 10 years at Denmead Infant School. She had never considered any career other than teaching and believes it’s a vocation.

    “You can make a difference to someone’s life every single day,” she said. “You won’t impact every child every day, but you can see someone’s eyes light up with understanding, and every time that happens, it is so rewarding.”

    Now, as deputy headteacher at St Alban’s C of E Primary, she has taken charge of collective worship and RE.

    “We serve a changing demographic here, and all families are welcome, whether they have faith or not,” she said. “Families are open to hearing about and learning from faith, without any fear of indoctrination.

    “There is no expectation that people will become believers, but I am passionate about faith. Like taking part in sport, the best way is not to learn it from a text book, but to participate in it. Our children will have been influence by faith and it provides a foundation for their lives.

    “Our ethos permeates our lessons, and we spend a lot of time looking at our core values. We have Bible-based acts of worship, led by all staff – and we want to get back to pupils leading worship as well.”

    Among other projects, one that has really taken off in St Alban’s is its commitment to improving its grounds to help pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies. The school is part of the national Polli:Nation project, and has designed and installed a new front border and a ‘bee wall’ to provide nesting and shelter. It’s based on a commitment to conserve God’s creation.


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