From Quaker schools to Marjorie Sykes
At its heart
What is the problem many Quakers have with Quaker schools? At Sibford School where I am on the school committee (its governing body), we are not funded by Quaker money but by parents’ fees. We are not run by the Society of Friends either, though we have a Quaker head. The governing body is largely Quaker, however, which ensures Quaker values and ethos permeate throughout the school, having a profound effect on everyone. We are a fantastic source of outreach. Would critics prefer us to close down the schools early Quakers founded?
Some say private education is elitist. Don’t all members of society benefit from Quaker values? We offer places to a diverse range of families and help those in need with generous bursaries. Some people will always opt for a private education (particularly as state schools are increasingly struggling with underfunding).
We are not a hot-house school but are a non-selective, broad-intake school that nurtures each individual child. Our pastoral care is outstanding and we are proud of this. We have our share of high flyers but also run a wonderful ‘support for learning’ department, which enables pupils with dyslexia to succeed far beyond their expectations, and less academic children are offered numerous paths to achieving successful qualifications and career paths.
We produce well-rounded young people who leave school confident that they can make a difference in the world. I invite critics to visit us to see what we are really about. I think you will be impressed. What better way to instil Quaker values in wider society than to educate children at a school run with the Quaker ethos at its heart?
Tone of the gathering
There is a Quaker side to Reg Naulty’s review of Appeasing Hitler (2 August). In September 1938 the Quaker parliamentarian T Edmund Harvey was among the many MPs who welcomed prime minister Neville Chamberlain back to parliament after the Munich Agreement, writing to his wife, Irene, how Neville Chamberlain ‘carried the House away – many congratulated him, me included’.
The Munich Agreement was sufficiently important to the Quakers that they convened a special gathering about it, held in Friends House in November 1938 and bringing some 1,500 Quakers together from Britain, Europe and America. The tone of the gathering was one of penitence for the Quakers’ failure in the twenty years since the end of the first world war to have used the interval ‘to better advantage for the Kingdom of God’. The Quaker process of silent worship ‘led the Meeting into a deep place in which one after another testified to the peace and power of God and to a deep sense of humility in our human weakness and failure’.
The Quakers felt very deeply their responsibility for the settlement at the end of the first world war, which they judged had been unfair to Germany and had caused the rise of Nazism.
An influential figure of the time, Corder Catchpool, took his support for the redress of Germany’s grievances so far as to be accused of being pro-Nazi. Generally, the Quakers’ response to the approach of war was one of bewilderment and self-searching.
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