Could you provide pastoral support to C of E schools?

Published: Monday April 8, 2024
Daphne Philpot Bishop's Visitor to Schools, smiling at someone off camera.
Daphne Philpot, Bishop’s Visitor to Schools for over 25 years.

Bishop Robert and Bishop Rachel are looking for special people with a background in education who can take on the role of Bishop’s Visitor to Schools.

This is a voluntary pastoral role, celebrating all that church schools offer to their pupils and communities and providing support and encouragement to church school headteachers. Through an annual half-day visit to the school, as well as supporting school events and leavers’ services at the Cathedral, Bishop’s Visitor to Schools develop a strong connection with their schools and the staff who work there.

Jane Borgeaud, Diocesan Director of Education said “Working alongside the Bishop’s Visitors Team is one of the great privileges of my role as DDE. The combination of the deep commitment that headteachers have to their pupils and the hugely challenging situations that they navigate on a daily basis means that the pastoral support that the Bishop’s Visitor can offer is incredibly important. Of all the people who step into a headteacher’s office, the role of the Bishop’s Visitor to Schools is unique. This is not in any way a school improvement role: therefore there is no element of evaluation or judgement to the conversation.”

Daphne Philpot has been a Bishop’s Visitor to Schools for over 25 years after a career in secondary, primary and graduate education and school governorship. She worships at St Nicholas Church, Prestbury. Rod Harris has been a BV for 16 years after retiring from a career as a headteacher. We caught up with them at St James’ Church of England School in Gloucester, one of Daphne’s schools.

Daphne said, “I call this school ‘my beloved St James’ and I’m an ardent supporter of the school. My time here stems back to a time when the school needed a hand up and it’s been such a joy to see confidence growing here. You get an insight into the inner workings of the school and can share the tears and the laughter. I’m not here to write a report, but to ask questions and celebrate all that is good.”

“It’s an enormous privilege to go into our schools and talk about that with the heads and say to them ‘You’re doing a good job, don’t be worn down by what’s on your shoulders, keep going. Our church schools are superb schools.”
— Rod Harris, Bishop’s Visitor to Schools for 16 years.

Angela Anderton was appointed BV in 2021 said, “As a visitor without an agenda, someone who is not holding schools to account, headteachers can discuss their concerns and can ‘offload’ to a Bishop’s Visitor knowing that they will be heard without judgement. I fully appreciate that schools are dynamic, busy establishments – I do not want to add to any school leader’s burden. It is my intent to remain a friendly ear, maintain confidentiality and celebrate your successes; educators all too often forget the victories as there is always something else to do.”

Jane stands outside the Cathedral
Jane Borgeaud, Diocesan Director of Education

Jane emphasises the role of serving the schools saying, “The conversation offered is therefore a vital space solely for fellowship, understanding and empathy: something which headteachers give so much of to their staff, communities and pupils and which they also have much need of themselves.

“I know from my own roles in Education leadership, that it is so easy to focus on the next thing you need to do, that it is easy to forget to celebrate all that is already being achieved. The Bishop’s Visitor is a voice that ensures that that recognition occurs.

It is deeply important to me that every church school in the Diocese has the opportunity to have the support of a Bishop’s Visitor. We currently have a number of schools waiting for a new Bishop’s Visitor and I would love to speak to anyone who feels that this may be a call that they could answer.”


Getting involved

Do I have the skills and experience needed to be a Bishop’s Visitor to Schools?

Many Bishop’s Visitors are former headteachers or school leaders, but this is not essential. What is important is that the  Bishop’s Visitor has sufficient experience or knowledge of school leadership or governance to deeply understand the demands of the role of the headteacher and therefore offer an authentic and empathetic conversation. Therefore, Bishop’s Visitor to Schools are usually people who have worked or volunteered in education for a number of years either as teachers or governors. Their role is essentially pastoral and seeks to provide a confidential and encouraging support to headteachers and staff in church schools. Bishop’s Visitors are not there to evaluate or to pass judgement on the schools they visit. Rather they will be attentive listeners, compassionate friends and support the school in their vision. A key aspect of the role is to celebrate all that the school achieves. They should be practising Christians who will pray for their schools.

What is the time requirement?

Most Bishop’s Visitors to Schools care for around 10 schools. This can be adjusted according to the individual’s available time. For each school they will;

  • Formally visit each school for a half day annually.
  • Write a letter about their visit to the headteacher for presentation at governor and PCC meetings.
  • Keep informed about what’s happening in the school through reading newsletters, the website, attending events where possible and supporting schools at the leavers’ services.
  • Bishop’s Visitors meet together as a team of volunteers three times a year with the Director of Education to discuss experiences, receive diocesan updates and share in an annual eucharist with the Bishops.
  • Many BVs choose to be available on email or telephone whenever their support is useful to the headteacher.

Is training provided?

All Bishop’s Visitors to Schools have a programme of training. They learn where to signpost schools for more resource or information and have ongoing access to support from members of the Diocesan Education Team as needed.

If you would like to find out more about whether the role of Bishop’s Visitor to Schools may be right for you, please contact the Education Team on ku.gr1716312513o.coi1716312513dsolg1716312513@noit1716312513acude1716312513 or 01452 835539 to arrange an initial, informal conversation with Jane Borgeaud, the Diocesan Director of Education.

A group of people of all different ages sharing a meal together

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