Over the last couple of years, Saltley staff, trustees and advisory council members have been reflecting on what the priorities of the Trust might be over the medium term. And we’re very pleased to publish these now (you can read them on the Trust’s ‘What We Support’ page!
The Trust’s three main priorities remain the same: RE/schools, Further Education and Christian learning/discipleship. Within these, and cutting across them, we’ve identified a few priority areas in which we’re particularly keen to support new work. But because Saltley Trust is about encouraging ideas and listening to perspectives at grass-roots level, Trustees also wanted to continue to be open to alternative ideas which people feel passionate about. The Trust continues to welcome ideas in areas which don’t appear on our priorities document.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed a few changes, and it’s worth saying a bit more about these:
- From ‘religious education in schools’ to ‘religion in school education’. But why? In one sense, this re-wording simply reflects what the Trust already does. As well as supporting the development of RE/RS as a curriculum subject, the Trust also from time to time initiates, funds and supports projects which concern religion and learning in other aspects of school life – for example, a school’s wider spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC) offering, collective worship, or projects concerning a school’s religious ethos if it has one. A second reason for the change was a recognition that there might be good religion and education projects taking place outside the formal RE space – for example, on religion in history, literature, geography or science, and we didn’t want to exclude those. A third reason for the change is that there’s a lot of current debate about the future development of RE/RS, what it should be called and what it should cover (‘Religion and Worldviews’ is one possibility attracting some attention). As a Trust, Saltley doesn’t follow a particular party line on this question (and amongst Saltley Trust’s people there would be a variety of views). Whatever the outcome of that debate, the Trust is still committed to the curriculum subject insofar as it relates to our core mission of ‘widening and advancing religion and education’. What remains the same, however, is that school projects supported by Saltley must be i) explicitly concerned with religion ii) explicitly educational iii) have a definite benefit to or connection with Christianity even where the project concerns several faiths or worldviews.
- Religious Literacy is one of our new priority areas. The focus on religious literacy is in part an acknowledgement that the Trust doesn’t exist only for people within the Christian bubble, but that its historic commitment to adult religious education could take place in a variety of contexts well beyond schools, colleges and churches. In a world of divisions and fractures, being religiously literate is about being open to understanding and respecting the Other, whether we are persuaded of their views or not – and we believe this commitment to understanding is crucial to the peace and wellbeing of society at large. Within the RE/schools sphere, including a focus on religious literacy is NOT to imply that we think religious education is purely a matter of ‘religious literacy’ (we think RE goes well beyond this). But it is to recognise that a certain level of literacy about religion/belief/worldview is one important ingredient for life in school, college and community.
- Faith Formation is new language for us, but not a new area. This is a way of expressing the Trust’s continued commitment to supporting work which seeks to understand the process of developing in Christian discipleship and what helps nurture it. Here terminology is tricky: when the Trust was founded in 1980, its original vision spoke of ‘adult Christian education’ – this terminology has gradually dropped out of use, not least because most people would now consider that growth in faith isn’t solely about ‘education’, even in its broadest sense. Sometimes the language of ‘education’ also makes people think purely of formal educational settings (school rooms or Bible classes) when learning and growth in Christian faith and practice takes place informally as well as formally, through doing as well as listening, using the heart and hands as well as the head. Of course, not everyone likes ‘discipleship’ language either, and for some people ‘formation’ sounds overly directive. This is not the intention here. We are all being ‘formed’ in some way or another all the time, by all sorts of influences, even if we don’t recognise it. We also recognise that particularly in the educational spaces we support, there are times when Christian formation is not the objective, and that’s fine. Here, we are saying: for those who want to be formed in the likeness of Christ, we want to continue to understand more about what helps and hinders that journey, and how individuals and Christian communities can learn to do that better.
- Environment, Peace-Making/Reconciliation, Racial Justice. Here are three more thematic foci for the next 3-5 years. We see these as particularly pressing challenges in the contemporary world. More fundamentally, as a Christian charity, we would see right relationships with God, others and the rest of creation as being interlocking and mutually enriching, whilst the challenges we face in each of these areas also bleed into the others. But we also recognise that there are other major challenges – currently, the UK’s cost of living crisis is one (and we are open to creative educational projects which address that challenge too). So how can we develop creative projects which involve learning how to make life better in the face of contemporary difficulties?
- Ways of Working. For the first time, we’ve put to paper some of the ways of working which we believe will enhance any project the Trust supports or undertakes. Some of them are embedded into the Trust’s DNA – for example, valuing grass-roots engagement and empowerment, and equipping others to learn rather than merely transmitting knowledge. Others are more responsive to the times – for example, that we hope and encourage projects will take seriously the need to work in environmentally sustainable ways. Others address areas where we’d like to engage more – for example working with a younger demographic. None of these are project themes in themselves (the Trust’s three main priority areas remain) – rather they are things that we’d encourage project partners to address and consider in the course of developing and undertaking their work.