The Controlled Schools’ Support Council’s ‘vital role’ was endorsed at the recent Presbyterian Church in Ireland General Assembly on 7 June 2017.
CSSC’s vice chair, Andy Brown, who is Convenor of PCI's State Education Committee and who was nominated onto the CSSC by the Transferors’ Representative Council (TRC), said that the creation of CSSC was “something to be welcomed, something to celebrate and something to be whole-heartedly and actively supported”.
Following the creation of Northern Ireland in 1921, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, along with the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church, handed over its schools to the control of the state, thus creating the controlled sector.
However, it wasn’t until 1 September 2016, after 20 years of work by the TRC, that CSSC came into being. Until this time we hadn’t had “the capacity to be a coherent and unifying voice for the sector”, said Andy Brown, as he highlighted the tireless work of Trevor Gribben, Robert Heron and Uel McCrea, amongst others, in lobbying for a controlled schools’ advocacy body.
“The CSSC will be an advocate for each school and all schools in the sector, it will assist in planning for the schools' estate, it will work to raise standards and to raise aspirations. For the first time since the creation of the State, it will articulate an ethos for the sector, based upon the values of a non-denominational Christian environment.” he added.
Andy Brown, who is a member of the Academic Leadership Team at Stranmillis University College, called on colleagues to do three things.
“Support the work of your local Controlled schools. Show interest in them, be a counsellor for their hard-pressed principals, pray for the teachers, celebrate the achievements of their pupils.
“Participate and exercise your rights and responsibilities to take assemblies, deliver RE lessons, ask about the curriculum and offer to assist with Christian resources.”
“Take up your seats on Board of Governors, attend faithfully and give of your time generously,” he said. “Or better yet, ask the principal what sort of skill set is needed for your particular schools and find these within your congregations.
“Advocate for education and the profession of teaching. There seems to be a narrative that has been played out in the media and amongst certain political parties that there are no teaching jobs.
“This just simply is not true. Ask any principal how many phone calls are made to find subs. Entry into the profession is different than it used to be, but this is the same in many careers nowadays, especially in these financially risk-averse times.”
In conclusion, Andy Brown urged General Assembly delegates to “speak about education often - its value, its place, and the privilege for young Christian women and men to enter service in impacting young hearts, minds and lives through teaching.
“CSSC has a vital role to play in the educational landscape of Northern Ireland. So does the Presbyterian Church. My prayer is that together we can support our mutual interests of maintaining a sector that has at its core a warm, open, Christian ethos.”