So far in our musings on prayer for our local schools we have looked at praying for teachers (including head teachers and governors) and for Christian organisations working in schools. I thought it important also to look at praying for the children and young people in schools and at how things look from their perspective.
School takes up a large proportion of time and can be a ‘make or break’ experience for many children. Some love the challenge, community life and whole learning experience of school. Others hate it, feeling isolated, lonely, academically challenged or bored, and end up wanting to leave. Many are in between, enjoying some aspects of school life but finding others stressful. School-age children may feel stressed about academic and extracurricular demands, peer pressure, parental expectations and a growing anxiety about what the future holds for them, even if they do achieve well at school. They may face bullying, which can take all kinds of different forms (including cyber-bullying where the increasing importance of social media can mean there is no escape from backbiting and malicious gossip, even away from school.) The relentless toll of assessment and testing can be very difficult for some pupils to adjust to, whilst others thrive on the competition and challenge of exams.
‘Fitting in’ is a big thing for even young children and certainly as the teenage years hit, the pressure to conform to all that is around them increases on young people. Obviously, how young people cope with this tends to be influenced by a variety of factors, including the security of their home life and the personality of the individual. Sometimes, the gap between the values taught at home and the values of school seem to clash enormously and it can be frightening for young people and parents alike to work through these issues. The influence of friends can be good or bad, but certainly has to be worked through.
I asked some of the children at church how they find school. Most said they enjoyed it, but found some of the subjects hard. Some wanted to talk about the things they enoyed (primary maths featured highly!) Playing with friends ranked high among the ‘advantages’ of school, but the opposite of that is the difficulties some have had with bullying. This can range from cruel words or ‘funny looks’ to actual physical violence. All schools must have an anti-bullying policy, but it is not always easy for adults to get to the bottom of bullying and as Christians, we must pray for the safety of the children in our schools and for staff to be vigilant in dealing with incidents. Ultimately, also, we must pray for the children to find godly ways of dealing with these issues.
The family that are moving away will obviously face the challenge of new schools. All the children are nervous about going to a new school, meeting new people and making new friends and the difference that change inevitably brings. Let’s pray for them to settle in well and to make good academic progress, but let’s also remember as we pray for our schools that God is interested not only in what we achieve but in who we are. Let’s pray for godly characters to be formed in our children and for schools to be a place where Christian values are upheld.