Church and Schools FAQ
Guidelines for setting up a new Christian club for a primary school - new & updated!
How to get started:
How to approach schools:
Decide on a time/day:
How to advertise:
Ending a session:
Working relationship with the School:
Day to Day Running a club - Possible snag-list:
The aims of each Christian club:
Other Top Tips:
The best way to set up an after school club is to build on to an existing relationship with a school and not approach the school ‘cold’.
For tips on getting started/ building a relationship with your local school, please see the Local Church, Local School website: www.localchurchlocalschool.org.uk
For tips on identifying gifts & talents within your local congregation see theChurch & Schools Parish Audit document.
Do your research - Is it a Church of England school? Is there a Christian ethos? Are there any Christian staff? Is there any existing Christian input? Is the school willing to develop further links?
If you need support with this please contact the DBE team, in the first instance - Nancy Lush Education@CarlisleDiocese.org.uk
Write to school ask if you can support them. Say what you’re offering.
See a sample letter to Head teacher. (link to sample letter to Headteacher)
Find out who is willing to be on team; teachers, governors, parents, clergy.
Set up a prayer team and enlist wider support in prayer from all local churches & prayer networks.
See advice below on recruiting suitable team members & DBS checks, etc.
When are the team available?
What other clubs exist?
Is the room appropriate for the club, size?
Is the room available for length of time required?
Use the whole team for an assembly; give examples of what will happen at club.
Put an article in the School newsletter.
Get permission from the school to put up posters in cloakrooms, hand out fliers.
Send letter to parents (particularly for age specific clubs) ask for this to go out on Parentmail (if the school use this method of communicating with parents.)
See the sample letter to parents (link to sample letter to parents)
Plan for the number of adult helpers needed to allow the club to run. The group should never run with too few staff. For best practice the ratio of adults to children should be 1:6 when working with children aged from 5-11. See SAFE website for further details: http://www.safenetwork.org.uk/help_and_advice/best_safeguarding_practice/Pages/adult_children_ratios.aspx
Know the team members well enough prior to running such a group to eliminate any problems like reliability, skills, relating well to the team. If one of the team is unable to attend, and you have too few helpers that week, then the school must be informed prior to the event to give notice that the club will not be running.
Working as a team:
Meet regularly, e.g. every half term, to discuss material, clarify roles/ tasks and pray together.
Try to work to personal strengths/ gifts, whilst giving team members the opportunity to try different roles once they feel a bit more confident.
Try to plan outlines for the club per term or half term, giving people enough notice to keep their diary free!
See a sample team rota. (link to sample team rota)
Leading the team:
Each team needs a leader, someone agreed by the church(es) and school who is willing to take on the responsibility of leading the club, including managing the volunteer team. (The parish is ultimately responsible for the establishment of the club and formal appointment of the leader using the procedures for volunteers which are explained below).
For a sample team leader role outline/ job description please click here.
Part of the leadership role will be to ensure there are clearly defined boundaries that everyone knows, helping to keep all attending feeling safe and protected. This is as important for the team as it is for the children attending.
Leaders are responsible for ensuring that the club is run in accordance with the Diocesan code of conduct and practice for working with children in section 3.i of the Diocesan safeguarding policy. This contains specific guidance for leaders of activities.
Any team will need extra volunteers for the weekly running of the club. Here are a few suggestions of where to find willing helpers:
- Church notices requesting help.
- Letters to parents.
- Contact local youth workers.
- Gap year students.
- Secondary school, 6th form students looking for voluntary ‘young leader’ experience.
For a sample volunteer role outline/ job description please click here.
Ensure your volunteers all feel appreciated and part of the team. Perhaps send them a thank you card at the end of the school year, or meet together as a ‘whole’ team once a half/ full term to help build the unity of the team. Maybe celebrate the end of the summer term with a pizza or team trip to a café.
The parish is responsible for ensuring that all volunteers including the leader are suitable to work with children and they must be appointed in accordance with the procedures set out in section 4.i of the Diocesan safeguarding policy (these require each volunteer to complete an application and confidential declaration form and for references to be taken up followed by an interview-a clear DBS check is the final part of the process after which the parish safeguarding coordinator can confirm the appointment)Once this process is complete the volunteer should be sent a letter confirming their appointment, and they should be given a copy of their role outline and Diocesan guidelines for working with children. They will need an induction and should be asked to attend Foundation safeguarding training within 6 months of appointment. Details of the full Diocesan safeguarding training programme are published in the safeguarding section of the Diocesan website. All volunteers are expected in addition to receive supervision and annual appraisal.
The parish, through the PCC or the vicar as its chair, will need to decide who is responsible for the interview and appointment of the leader (it could for example be the vicar and parish safeguarding coordinator or possibly the head teacher of the school where the club will be run) but the leader of the after school group will need to take a key role in the appointment of the volunteers and giving them the supervision which is needed.
Please see the updated Safeguarding Policy on the Diocesan website for further advice: http://www.carlislediocese.org.uk/people-and-structures/committees/safeguarding.html
The Diocese provides guidelines for volunteers working with children in section 3i of the Diocesan website which need to be followed at all times and in addition there should be agreement with the school about the sanctions which can be applied in the event of behaviour which is disruptive so that every team member is aware of the procedures and follows them. Any concerns about the behaviour of specific children should be discussed with the school leadership team children and/or their parents as appropriate. If the children become too disruptive they might, as a last resort, be asked to leave.
In a club which children choose to come to, it is important that you get their parents’ written permission, and that they understand the club will give Bible teaching.
When you have this permission, you can be more explicit about Christian teaching, commitment and prayer than you would be in a lesson or assembly – see the sample ‘letter to parents’ permission slip.
Depending on when the club meets (i.e. lunch time or after school) you will need to take into account the finishing time of the group. If it is lunch time then ensure the children return to class, or if it after school then only release the children to their parents.
For after school clubs you will need to check with the school as to their policy on releasing the children to parents and where the most suitable location will be. Also you will need to think about this in your communication to the parents, so you are aware of who will be collecting the children from school, or if indeed they are not collected at all. The registration form attached to the sample letter to parents should be used to record the collection arrangements and who is expected/allowed to collect the child. See sample letter to parents.
Leaders must also ensure copies of the consent forms are easily available in event that an emergency of any kind arises during the course of the activity and to ensure that a register is kept of every child who attends. They must also ensure that the provisions in respect of ‘safe environment and venue’ specified in the Diocesan code of conduct for working with children are followed including ensuring that the required health and safety assessments are in place.
Establishing a good working relationship with the school is very important; as you are a visitor to the school and you must at all times set a good example. It is essential that one person be designated as ‘leader’ of the club and the other members are ‘helpers/ volunteers’. See above for role descriptors and accountabilities. This also helps with communication with the school, as they will have one person to contact and one telephone number.
To assist you further, you can produce something like our ‘Information to Schools’- see sample (link) This will inform the school about the basis of the group and who has the responsibility for running it.
We would recommend that the responsibility does not fall solely onto the shoulders of school staff.
Each club is staffed by adult volunteers. There is no charge to the school and no expectation on the school’s staff to participate. Hopefully the school will be happy for the club to use, free of charge, an appropriate classroom or hall space, depending upon the activities. Ensure the room is always left ready for its usual use. The club will limit its numbers according to the space and time available, and this may mean that you have to limit the club’s age group, or alternate age groups each half term.
Each adult on the staff list will have fully met the detailed requirements of the Diocesan Safeguarding policy in relation to activities with children (Section 3), which includes both a current DBS check and character references, as well as Health & Safety requirements as per diocesan safeguarding. http://www.carlislediocese.org.uk/people-and-structures/committees/safeguarding/safeguarding-policy.html
Everyone helping to run a club, either volunteers or clergy, will be given training and encouragement. You should endeavour to make sure that each club has some reserve team members in order to make sure the club can run regularly. This is especially important when the club runs after school hours.
One particular member of the team will be nominated as the ‘leader’ and it is suggested that this person liaise with the school on all matters related to the smooth running of the club. This person will usually be introduced to the head teacher (or member of staff responsible for extracurricular activities) by a member of the DBE Team. This person is also responsible for all the administration, preparation and execution of the club activities.
Any concerns that children may show signs of abuse or about the conduct of volunteers towards children must be reported to the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser (DSA) who can be contacted by phone on 07775290139 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org . The head teacher should also be advised and may initiate the school’s own safeguarding procedures in the event that the DSA is unavailable. If a club is run out of school hours, you should insist that the child’s parents (or another responsible adult with prior permission) collect their child. You are not responsible for the children once they have left the club premises.
Relevant insurance should be set in place to safeguard both the children and the helpers, and this is established in consultation with the school (if on a school site) or with the premises owners.
- to give Primary aged children the opportunity to find out more about Christianity and especially Bible stories.
- to introduce the children to people from local churches. Each club is open to children from other churches or to those from families that do not regularly visit any church.
- for every child, whatever their ability and background, to get something out of the club, not least a regular entertaining, educational and beneficial experience.
Here is an example of a club outline, based on the 'Bible And Me' resource available on the website:
Each week the club is based around a Bible theme which will be introduced with games and activities, singing and an illustrated Bible story. Some weeks there could be additional activities such as video or DVD clips, craftwork and drama. There may be a short time for prayer and quiet reflection too.
Each club will be responsible for resourcing itself with stationary, equipment and refreshments if appropriate. Apart from space to meet in, there is no expectation on the school to provide for the club. Some clubs suggest a small donation per week to cover their costs.
How to make sure club is long lasting
- Update local churches regularly.
- Keep the school notice board up-to-date.
- Provide prayer for volunteers/ team.
- Attend regular training for volunteers/ team.
- Have a structure, however be flexible- things may not always go according to plan.
- Tailor club to the young people coming.
- Be willing to change 'where' and 'when' and nature of club.
- Finish half terms/ terms with a party. It's a great way to invite parents to see what's happening if this is not a part of your club & build wider community links.
- Invite families to other social activities happening within your represented churches.
- At the end of the school term give each team member an evaluation sheet - this only works if you are all able to be honest! Click here for an example
- Get feedback from young people. Click here for an example
- Pray through everything you do.
- Have a prayer group which meets independently, to feed specific prayer requests to.
- Consider registering your prayer group with www.prayforschools.org
- Regularly review who goes to club? What are the numbers? What are the ages attending and stages of Christian journey?
- Identify the needs of the group and their reasons for coming- this helps identify the right direction and right input needed for your club.
- Look at what might need to change as well as what is working well.
Be wise with human resources
- Join forces if need be.
- A sustainable club is essential.