New Beginnings, New Opportunities
01 May, 2019, Dr Kathryn Wright
Today I start as the new Chief Executive of Culham St Gabriel’s Trust (CSTG). It is a huge privilege to take up this role. CSTG is a leading agent for change for RE and my vision as the new CEO is to strive tirelessly for the rejuvenation and reimagination of the subject at all levels from the political sphere to classroom practice. Teachers, children and young people lie at the heart of my passion and ambition for the subject.
Culham St Gabriel’s has had a significant impact on my career as a RE Teacher and as an adviser and consultant. My journey has been inspired and supported by engagement with the Trust (and formally as two Trusts) over the last 20 years.
Networking and partnerships
If my memory serves correctly, I attended a St Gabriel’s Weekend Conference in 1998 as a new Head of RE. I took along with me an NQT from my department. We had a great time! One thing we learned was that you could apply for grants to support teachers. So, we applied!! We submitted an application to set up teacher networks including meetings and newsletters in East London. We were awarded the grant and networking began. As a result I was asked to join the local SACRÉ and coordinated a local celebration of RE bringing together schools and faith communities. In my experience, teacher networking and conferences are of vital importance. For many isolated teachers of RE they provide opportunities to learn from others, sharing effective practice. For this reason, I am proud that CSTG has strategic partnerships with the RE Council of England and Wales and NATRE. I am also delighted that CSTG is supporting the National and Regional Ambassadors programme. These partnerships and programmes are designed to support the individual teacher in the classroom.
Teacher engagement with research
Two years later, I attended a St Gabriel’s conference again, but this time it was to present my Farmington Research http://www.farmington.ac.uk In recent years I have presented my own PhD research as well as findings from the Shared Space project https://www.natre.org.uk/about-natre/projects/the-shared-space-project/ and developments related to multi-disciplinary approaches to RE https://balancedre.org.uk. CSTG has often provided financial support for these conferences and events. Engagement with research is essential if we are to equip teachers with the knowledge, skills and expertise to transform the lives of young people, but also to nurture a love of the subject and love of education more generally. The CSTG research strategy is a vital workstream, and I am delighted that one of my first jobs as CEO is to discuss progress on what are known as the ‘Research 7’ at the AULRE conference next week.
Resourcing subject knowledge and expertise
In the late 1990s I also had my first contact with a CSTG (then Culham) consultant, Dick Powell. Dick was overseeing a project to promote centres of excellence for RE, I suppose it was a bit of a precursor for the RE Quality Mark www.reqm.org My school applied and became a designated centre. A couple of years later as I began work as an adviser in East London Dick contacted me to ask if I would work with a local school on a project with the BBC on Teaching Christianity with Key Stage 1. Providing resources and professional learning experiences related to subject knowledge, expertise and pedagogy are an essential element of CSTG strategy through for example RE:ONLINE, the Teach:RE courses and grant making.
Finally, teacher recruitment has always been on the CSTG agenda. In around 2002, Dick asked me to be involved with a project related to recruitment. The aim at the time was to create case studies showcasing teacher stories about what they loved about RE teaching. For the last few years I have run the Teach:RE courses for CSTG and increasingly used my role to lobby for Subject Knowledge Enhancement bursaries with NATRE and the RE Council, helping to bring about policy change. Working for continued policy change and taking forward the recommendations of the Commission on RE report are at the heart of CSTG objectives.
CSTG has impacted significantly on my career. As CEO I hope over the coming years that teachers across the country will be able to tell me how the Trust has made a difference to them too whether it be through networking, research, resourcing or policy change. I am looking forward to working with such a committed and dedicated RE community to transform our subject for this and future generations.