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School Chaplaincy for deprived Inner Oxford

The Revd Kay Blackwell was appointed School Chaplain at the Oxford Academy in September 2021. The school serves the deprived communities of Littlemore, Rose Hill and Blackbird Leys. The area’s multi-cultural, multi-faith dimension has been both a challenge and a thrill for Kay.

Kay, who had been a full time United Reformed Church minister in Basingstoke and Tadley, came to the school with the support of the Diocese of Oxford and its Development Fund.

Group of young people with Chaplain at Oxford Academy Chaplaincy She joined as students were returning, full time, after the Covid lockdown. An important part of the school’s strategy to leave ‘special measures’ was to put Christianity back at its heart though remaining a very inclusive school.

When she arrived, Kay felt that many in the school were quite reticent to talk about faith at all. In the last 19 months, she’s been helping staff and students put faith back on the agenda. The school has a significant Muslim population, so encouraging inter-faith dialogue has been an important element of her work.

“We need to learn to live together in harmony, respect one another and work alongside each other in creative and responsive ways.”

In the run up to Easter this year Kay organised a prayer stations event for Year 7 students. She led the cohort’s 220 pupils through the event, which took them through the Easter story.

“But they can access it whether they are of faith or not. It looks at the Easter story linking it to ordinary life, asking the students to reflect on times they have been sad, or what brings them joy, making it accessible to all.”

She also conducts assemblies for the school, again telling the Christian story but making it relevant to people’s lives. “It’s a fine line to thread,” she reflects. Kay’s also Chaplain to the staff.

hand drawn bucket with different coloured writing in it, label reads "Bucket of thoughts".“There’s been a huge amount of anxiety as we came out of lockdown and its aftermath. I work alongside the well-being team because the amount of mental health issues has been huge. It’s been an important time for pastoral support.”

Looking to the future, Kay was recently given a ‘chapel-space’ in the school. It’s a space she wants to continue to develop with an after-hours club, where students can be creative around the theme of faith.

Page last updated: Wednesday 10th May 2023 8:38 AM
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