Classes restoring faith in religious harmony

Head teacher Simon Barber.
Head teacher Simon Barber.
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IN other parts of the country it is a dividing line which has been the source of tension and conflict dating back centuries.

But at one Barnsley school the Anglican and Catholic traditions are followed in harmony under one roof.

The head teacher of Holy Trinity school Simon Barber told the Yorkshire Post the run-up to Christmas was one of the many occasions where pupils of the two different denominations could celebrate their faith side by side.

The school has just completed its first full calendar year as the country’s only through age school backed by both a Church of England and a Catholic Diocese.

Headteacher Simon Barber is a practicing Anglican but has had to learn more about the Catholic faith as part of his job.

The origins of the school date back to 2001 when St Michael’s School became both Church of England and Catholic.

Mr Barber said: “The numbers of baptised Catholics had declined to such an extent in the school that remaining as a purely Catholic school became problematic. Hallam Diocese was keen to retain a Catholic presence in secondary education in Barnsley and the Wakefield Diocese was keen to develop such a presence, so a joint school was mutually beneficial to both.”

Holy Trinity became the country’s first through age CE and Catholic school in September last year, when St Michael’s merged with Holy Cross Deanery CE Primary School and St Dominic’s Catholic Primary. It is based in a purpose-built building on the site of the former high school.

Mr Barber the head is a practising Anglican while his deputies Anna Dickson and Ian Beasley are both Catholics as is the school’s head of RE Lissa Oldcorn. Mr Barber said: “We are Christians, we just belong to different traditions. As a practicing Anglican it was very helpful to me at first to have a practicing Catholic to work alongside to help me understand the Catholic perspective. I think I am able to do the same with the Church of England perspective.

“That is important as parents and the Dioceses must have confidence that we are supporting and encouraging children in their families’s tradition. If all the senior leadership team were Catholic there would be more of a danger that Church of England perspectives could be lost and vice versa, so it benefits the school to have both traditions equally represented.”

There are a series of reserved posts at the school such as head teacher, deputy headteacher, assistant headteacher with responsibility for ethos and the head of RE which must be occupied by practicing members of the Catholic or Church of England traditions.

Mr Barber added: “The Christian ethos of the school is our bedrock, the platform from which everything else grows. It is our first priority in our School Development Plan and we try to improve and develop our work on ethos each year.

“As a result, it is very important that senior leaders are Catholic or Anglican. Religious education is seen here as a core subject.

“I have become more of a theologian doing this job. As Christians we are all on a journey of spiritual discovery. My role at Holy Trinity has enabled me to have some deeply moving and spiritual experiences that have certainly impacted on my own faith. I have really enjoyed getting to know the Catholic tradition and I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people in the Hallam Diocese that I wouldn’t have come into contact with had I remained in purely Church of England schools.

Mr Barber said although there are key differences in the beliefs of Anglicans and Catholics, the two denominations were able to co-exist and celebrate together throughout the year and especially at Christmas.

He added; “Catholic and Church of England traditions share a belief in the same Jesus Christ, the same gospel message, the same calendar and a common baptism.

“As a result we can plan our annual cycle of worship without any concern that one tradition is being marginalised.”