Birmingham City Mission have co-operated with Open the Book (OtB) on a two-year pilot scheme which ran from September 2017 to July 2019. The purpose of the pilot scheme was to subtly amend the existing OtB programme in order to improve take up of OtB in inner city schools. It particularly concentrated on making OtB accessible to schools where the majority of pupils are from Muslim families.
A number of those who participated in the pilot scheme gathered on June 13th to review what had happened throughout the two years. Some of the results are:
– 15 teams trained and began serving Birmingham schools during the pilot period.
– There are likely to be 4 more teams serving four more schools from September.
– We already have 15 people booked onto the next training day on 19th September
Head Teacher comments:
“The material is excellent.”
“I love the transparency of it. Ours is a school that thrives on relationships. We are open and honest with our parents and can reassure them that OtB assemblies have the same ethos that we do – unashamedly Christian but respectful and encouraging real understanding and tolerance.”
“Staff are very positive about the way the programme embraces difference.”
“The language and terminology is respectful of different faith traditions and that is significant for many of the children in this school.”
Among many comments about the welcome and the children’s positive reaction, this comment stood out:
“I’ve enjoyed watching the teachers come to trust the team and the integrity of the material. It’s a joy when they talk to us, or to the children, about the assembly story and we discover that they have both heard and understood.”
When asked whether OtB has a future in their school, Head Teachers said:
“Definitely. We want to go forward with the programme.”
“Yes, we consider this to be a long-term relationship.”
“Yes. When the team come in next week, we have arranged to plan dates for the whole of next year.”
Or the beginning…?
Using the results of this and other pilot schemes, OtB are planning to introduce subtle but important changes to all of their material in the next few years. Whilst the Christian message will remain undiluted, inclusion and diversity will be acknowledged and addressed more explicitly. This will make it possible for OtB to be welcomed into many ‘new’ schools, including those in inner cities.
Birmingham City Mission is to remain a ‘partner’ organisation with Open the Book and will continue to offer monthly training days and ongoing support.