Bishop's Visitor Reflections
Below you can find a selection of reflections on their roles in from some of our Bishop's Visitors.
These dedicated volunteers are an integral part of our schools - but not all schools have a Bishop's Visitor: if you would like to enquire about volunteering, please do contact us -
Diocesan Education Centre
Tel: 01522 504010
Joint role as Bishop’s Visitor and School Governor
As a retired Head Teacher of two church schools, I knew I would really miss a part of school life that was especially inspiring to me-that was Worship with children and singing with them! I can’t think of anything so uplifting than singing along with or just listening to a school hall filled with children singing together!
I hear that current research states that one of the best ways to be happy and free from anxiety, depression etc is to sing!
So I became a Bishop’s Visitor and had a wonderful chance to sing again with children and take part in lots of different activities in lots of different ways with children of all ages! Yes we are first a friend to the school and a trusted listening ear when needed. We provide that special bridge between the Bishop of Lincoln, the Diocesan Education Team and the school team and share the Bishop’s letter each term with the whole school community.
But it becomes so much more!
I have found it hugely wonderful to attend worship in school as a BV. Just by singing with the children and taking part in their prayers is so satisfying and usually very inspiring, especially when you know the children themselves have written the prayers. By leading worship, or joining in a special weekly worship event, with parents and going along to church, taking part in the school’s services, helping with school trips and visits, we develop a very special bond with the children and staff.
Very importantly our Christian presence grows trusted, relationships with the children, school team and the parents. Children wave across the local streets and aisles in the supermarket and tell their parents who I am - “ Oh that’s Mrs S or K she’s our Bishop!” ( Which made me smile! I did make sure they all knew who the Bishop was and what my role was!) They see us in school and church through the year and we become a trusted member of the school community.
Through the myriad of different activities we can get involved in across the school, offering of our individual skills and talents, we enrich not only the children’s lives but our own.
I became BV to two schools and each one has its own set of values and special friendly ethos.
One school needed a new school banner and asked if I could take this on? I LOVED working with the children, developing their ideas of their own school - and building an image that fitted their school. But it was a joy to also work alongside a parent who really knew how to embroider and a school governor and we managed to involve every single child in the creation of their new school banner.
It has proudly been taken to the Church Schools’ Festival and has pride of place in the local church during school holidays to be on display.
Another role that works very well with that of Bishop’s Visitor is as a Foundation Governor.
Believing that every child is made in the image of God, is loved by Him and that children deserve to go to a school that offers the very best in nurture , learning and wider opportunities to grow into well developed and skilled young people, fits perfectly with both roles.
There are differences in the roles but they compliment each other. A governor visit into school is for a particular reason, to gather first hand information to our strategic role in moving the school forward, observing school life in action, meeting with staff to find out how the action plan is progressing, to talk to children about their learning and as a Bishop’s Visitor you already have a relationship that is based on trust and know the school and how it works so you have a clear insight into the work and life of the school.
Knowing the boundaries of School Governor is easy to fit alongside the role of Bishop’s Visitor-
The Executive Head Teacher over two schools where I’m Bishop’s Visitor, states:
“It’s a very complimentary role and works very well-I know my Bishop’s Visitor knows the school, the children and parents and has a firm understanding of how we work and is part of school community. This understanding thoroughly compliments her work as a Governor.”
As BV the opportunity to meet other BVs at the BV’s Annual Conference is really very useful. Ive found it to be a great day with the afternoon worship particularly uplifting and generating a feeling of shared togetherness, ( The Eucharist service held in the Old Palace Chapel is a wonderful space and adds to the whole day!)
The morning session usually has time to give us all a chance to chat and talk about our roles and the things we get up to- It’s always great to listen to others tell us all of a special event/occasion that they’ve been involved with. There’s a special session with a speaker, usually the Diocesan Education Team Director, which is inspiring and leaves us all feeling we are a valued part of the Diocesan Team- I very special day for BV’s and well worth attending.
BV /Foundation Governor/Churchwarden
I am the Bishop’s Visitor at two local primary schools. One is less than 2 miles away and the other is about 5, so I am able to visit each for a morning or afternoon each week. Having two schools works because they have the same Rector, so there are no clashes with visits to church for Christmas ,Easter and the Leavers’ service at the end of the summer term. Each school has four classes so it is not difficult to be useful to each one at some time during the term depending on their timetable and needs.
I am currently helping both schools by preparing older pupils to lead Worship. It is very rewarding to see how they gain confidence during the year. Making Powerpoint presentations ,writing short scenes to explore a Christian value or Bible story, asking the school thoughtful questions, reading Bible passages and writing prayers are all activities they tackle as a team and develop their individual talents. I am always amazed at their ideas and willingness to ‘have a go’.
Other ways I have been able to help;
- Listening to readers is often welcomed
- Using my sewing skills to make a third ‘Worship Leader’ sash when needed
- Being an ‘extra adult’ when a class visited a local senior citizens’ home to sing carols
- Going with the Y3/Y4 class to the Church Schools’ Festival at St. Denys Sleaford
- A day with the Y6 from each school to the Church Schools’ Festival at Lincoln Cathedral
- I have helped to introduce Godly Play by demonstrating a story then supporting staff when they try their first one (I recommend the ‘you tube’ clips as they are a helpful reminder of the story telling activity)
- Short sessions with the younger ones about ‘Reflection Time’
I value the support from the team; our Bishop’s Visitor co-ordinator, our Diocesan Director of Education and everyone at the office, you know they are only a phone call or e-mail away if needed. I also enjoy the friendship and the training we receive at the annual Bishops’ Visitors’ conference and our Regional Meeting .
Back to the schools - I am always greeted with a smile ,they send me the e-mail school diary so I can be aware of what activities have been happening at school, and the list of term dates etc. I encourage anyone to think and discover more about being a Bishop’s Visitor ,it is very rewarding and certainly helps with your own ‘faith journey’.
One Bishop Visitor’s Experience
As I approached my retirement from headship of a Church of England primary school almost eighteen years ago I was asked by the Diocese to consider being a Bishop’s Visitor to a nearby village school. As headteacher of a school with an active and supportive Bishop’s Visitor I knew that this link with the Diocese through a Bishop’s Visitor and her personal support brought great benefits to the school. What I wondered would it hold for me?
Well, all those years later I am still Bishop’s Visitor to the same school and I very much enjoy the opportunity of being involved in its life and that of the children and staff. Holbeach St Mark’s Church of England Primary School is set within a small rural village surrounded by highly productive agricultural land. Most pupils live within the village with some coming from the wider local area. In this welcoming, happy and successful school, with a strong feeling of family, I am seen as a friend to both children and staff.
I aim to visit the school twice a month and, alongside offering support and friendship and helping out at events and visits, I regularly support the delivery of collective worship. I really enjoy this aspect of my role and its impact on the children was recently illustrated by a new member of staff. She reminded me that as a past pupil at the school we had met before and that she had fond memories of my collective worship stories. That did bring a smile to my face and a warm feeling in my heart.
Recently I became Bishop’s Visitor to a second Church of England primary school. My visits to this school are just beginning but once again it is lovely when entering the school to be welcomed so warmly by the children and staff. I look forward to what the future brings as I seek to do all that I can to support both of my schools, further their Christian foundation and strengthen links with the Diocese.
Support for Bishop’s Visitors is readily available through an annual conference held in Lincoln and regional meetings. These meetings allow Bishop’s Visitors to meet and share experiences with each other and to gain valuable support from the Bishop, diocesan staff and from Judy Dickin, Bishop’s Visitor co-ordinator.
Sonya Ripley, Headteacher of Tydd St Mary Church of England Primary School writes –
Our school had been without a Bishop’s Visitor for the 12 years I have been Headteacher. Situated in the south of the County, our children needed this direct link with the Diocese as - other than the Church Schools Festival in Year 6 and the Christmas Carol Concert every two years - they had very limited knowledge of our Bishop.
It is something I asked for every year and am delighted that after such a long period Jackie Sheldrake joined our school this academic year as a Bishop’s Visitor. Jackie visits us each term and represents the Bishop brilliantly. Along with reading his letters she delivers an act of worship and the children thoroughly look forward to her visits. The children’s greater sense of belonging to a wider family is evident and for this I am extremely grateful.
Revd Jan Vasey
I became a Bishop’s Visitor about 9 years ago, just before I was ordained, and visited a school in North Lincolnshire. After about 3 years I asked for a move nearer to home, and became the Visitor at Lisle Marsden Academy in Grimsby.
Lisle Marsden is the Church School in our parish and I was used to taking assemblies there, so I already knew the staff and some of the pupils.
Last year the school appointed a new RE co-ordinator, (Carlie Miller) with the grand title of Leader of Christian Ethos and Pupil Well-being. She has been a breath of fresh air, and there is no doubting that the school is a Church School and Christianity is at its fore. You cannot walk around the school without realising this.
Apart from my assembly visits, and attendance when the school visits the Minster, I try to visit at least 3 times a term. These visits are arranged with Carlie, in conjunction with the staff, and I feel very involved with the development of the pupils, especially with regard to their spirituality. I have attended meetings with the Leaders of Light. These are pupils who represent their class and help to plan Collective Worship. They also lead the start of Collective Worship, and this week they were planning the first Collective Worship they will lead themselves. They amaze me with their sense of responsibility and with their knowledge of Christianity,
I was especially impressed when taking part in a session about Reflection with a class of Year 4s. They had been outside, and had written with chalk on the paths, the things they felt they had done wrong. The teacher then washed away the writing, with water. When I joined them, they were writing down their feelings about the exercise. I spoke with several of the children who were prepared to share their feelings with me. The depth of their thoughts and the feeling of relief (and also forgiveness) which they felt, was very humbling. It put us adults to shame! How many of us really understand Reflection?
Lisle Marsden school has always been welcoming, and I feel the pupils, and staff know me well. It’s a joy when they come to Church and greet me as a friend. It’s so good to be part of this Christian family.
My next visit, later this month, is to take part in a discussion with year 6 pupils, about the place of the Resurrection in the Christian story. That will test my mettle, but I’m so looking forward to it!
Revd. Jan Vasey.
Sarah Jayne Redhead
New Bishops visitor!
I have had a long history with All Saints’ School in North Hykeham as my eldest son is now 21 years old but I am still visiting on a regular basis! I have attended many parents evenings, seen all the school productions been a member of the Friends of School, then as wanted to be more proactive within the school I volunteered as a parent governor and then as my sons left the school I took on the role as a Foundation governor. A Foundation Governor is someone who represents the school and the church by being able to help develop the religious ethos within the school recently I was finding that I have a job and family commitments to look after my time was being taken up outside of the school and I wasn’t giving as much time as I thought I should to the school and although being a governor is a very rewarding role it is also a demanding role, I finally decided to step down from my role in the Summer of 2019.
Mrs Norton the headteacher of the school suggested that I could be their Bishops visitor something that I had never thought about, she was very excited that perhaps I could take on this role as the school had not currently got a Bishops visitor. The Bishops Visitor has to have a current DBS check which allows you to go into the school As the Bishops visitors you are asked to complete a few duties throughout the year. The Bishop writes a letter to the children and you are asked to read that out to the children at Christmas and Easter, in our school this is usually during a church service. I have already read out my first Bishops letter to the children at their service in church in December this was so lovely to be able to speak with the children and see all their excitement for the Christmas period. There is a conference which you are invited to attend and this is usually for a morning and apart from that it is up to you to discuss what you would like to do with the school.
Some Bishops visitors go into the school and take the assembly on a regular basis, some Bishop Visitors pop in and talk to the staff and headteachers on a regular basis, I have set up a club with Mrs Norton and the younger children of the school for half an hour at lunchtime reading the stories of the bible and either making a picture, playing a game or some craft (see above). I am so pleased that I have taken on the role of the Bishops visitor as I can fit this in around my own life and still keep up my links within the school, and I even get my own official badge to wear around the school to identify who I represent. I think this is also very important for all the parents to see that although they have taken the decision to put their children into a church of England school they can also see the presence of this in their children’s lives.
My journey started with a simple phone call from a small Church School on the banks of the Humber. "Hello Mr Denovan would you be prepared to be our Bishop's Visitor now you have retired from your Headship?" My answer was equally simple - "Yes of course I will, but what does a Bishop's Visitor do?"
Following consultation with the Diocese and obtaining a new DBS which covered me for working in the school and an initial visit to work out what I could offer the school and what they wanted from my visits, my journey began.
Now that was eleven years ago and after three Head teachers I am still the Bishop's Visitor and still being welcomed by the Staff and enjoying sharing my time with them. The role changed with each new Head teacher - initially it was a "listening role and offering wellbeing support especially when Ofsted visited " to a new young Head, doing a few collective worships, reading the Bishop's termly letter and listening to readers.
Then with a new head it was helping out with sports days, residential visits and carrying on with the other aspects that we had agreed. Now with a new head teacher the role is similar to what was agreed with the first head, regular updates via phone calls keeps me informed of diary dates and agreed visit days. I attend Class or School performances at Festival times and of course help out serving Christmas lunch but also enjoying one with Staff and Governors. The key to enjoying the role is communication and being clear on what the school needs are and what you can offer.
Whilst at my first Bishop Visitor's conference, which was really enjoyable and an effective way to network with other B.V's, I found out that a school in Gainsborough had no "Bishop's Visitor" and did we know of anyone who was willing to take on the role. I thought why not?! So, again after a short phone call I became their B.V. and that was ten years ago and whilst visits are not as first planned I still enjoy attending "assemblies" on curriculum studies-sports day-and serving as a Governor for a short while.
Then after another conference I was approached by one town school and was told that another school had recently lost their B.V.so after two more calls, I ended up with four schools but only as a "holding" basis until new ones in their areas could be found. Since then those two schools have now got B.V's who are living in their area, two teachers who have recently retired, so my role was done.
Have I enjoyed my journey so far - certainly I have, since retirement I have enjoyed attending schools, conferences in Lincoln plus the annual meetings. I have made so many new friends, hopefully given back friendship and helping them all have a positive link to the Diocese .
So if you have time to do a similar journey - think about what you could offer another school who might need a Bishop's Visitor to help them on their way.
I’ve been a part of Barrowby Church of England Primary School for 30 years now – initially as a parent, when we moved to the village, then as a helper in school, and a Foundation Governor. Whilst in training for Reader ministry, a job came up at the school as Senior Administrator/Bursar, which I jumped at, so that I could be in my village community throughout the week-I was there for 20 years. And of course, I have been involved in the school as a lay minister at Barrowby church for even longer now. So when I retired from the paid job a few years ago, becoming the school’s Bishop’s Visitor seemed a natural step to take – although I often feel that I’m wearing a considerable number of invisible ‘hats’!
So - wearing some or all of those ‘hats’ - I’m involved in leading collective worship, and school services in church – and very soon in ‘Open the Book’ which brings bible stories to the children through dramatized storytelling – this is an exciting new initiative in our school, and we are hoping that these sessions will take place in church, where we can welcome parents and other community members to join us. This is an important part of our school-church-community partnership. When the ongoing reordering of our church interior is complete, we will also be able to share the new flexible space with our school, and the strong relationships we already enjoy will help us develop that together.
The role of Bishop’s Visitor also allows me to act as listener and supporter, in the intensely busy and sometimes very stressful life of a school, and to be there for anyone who needs a listening ear. Sometimes just knowing there’s someone available can be enough! Having a Bishop’s Visitor also strengthens the school’s link to the wider church, not just the one next door.
I’m sure there must be lots of people who have got to know their local school well, as students, parents, volunteers or governors – becoming the school’s Bishop’s Visitor is a great way of continuing to be involved and adds a whole new dimension to that relationship. And if you’re new to working with a school, there’s no better time to go and get involved, and lots of different ways to offer your own particular gifts and talents in the Bishop’s Visitor role. Knowing that you are supporting a school in providing the very best opportunities for its children – and seeing those children grow and flourish, is immensely rewarding.
And best of all – you get a front seat at school productions!
What is it like to be a Bishop’s Visitor?
During my teaching career I have worked in several church schools. Two of these schools had occasional visits from a Bishop’s Visitor. As a teacher, and then a head teacher, I valued these visits and saw them as opportunities to celebrate the everyday achievements of pupils and staff with someone committed to supporting schools as they develop their Christian Ethos
After I retired as a Headteacher, the incumbent of my church suggested that by becoming a Bishop’s Visitor I could continue to use my professional skills to support and enhance the work of a local Church School. Although schools are busy places, teachers, Headteachers and governors may often feel burdened by parental, local and national expectations and demands if there is a focus on test results and league tables. I empathise with these feelings.
When I became a Bishop’s Visitor I quickly learned that there is no set job description and there were many and varied ways that I could support to the school. The initial meeting with the Headteacher enabled us to work out a partnership that would help to maintain the connection between school and church. There were times when I was asked by the Headteacher and teachers to help with various events. So, I have been able to lead Acts of Worship; to be with Y6 pupils at the Church Schools’ Festival at Lincoln Cathedral and to accompany pupils on visits to the local church and other out of school visits. I am always delighted to be asked to “help out” in school and to offer 1 – 1 support to young children in the early stages of learning to read and write or to roll up my sleeves and help YR and Y1 pupils with art work. The joys of being a Bishop’s Visitor include being able to join parents for weekly Good Work Assemblies when we celebrate the achievements of pupils throughout the school; to attend the local church at the end of each term to read out a letter from the Bishop and to go along to the end of year leavers’ service when I see Y6 pupils ready to move on into Secondary School and recall them as KS1 pupils when I first became a Bishop’s Visitor.
Being a Bishop’s Visitor may seem a daunting task and it would be very difficult without the support of the Diocese of Lincoln’s Board of Education. At the beginning of every year there is an Annual Conference where there are contributions from the Diocesan Director of Education; training opportunities; relevant updating and a time for sharing experiences and to reflect on our own spirituality. In addition, every year there are two regional meetings where Bishop’s Visitors meet with the Diocesan Director of Education, members of the wider Diocesan team and also the Bishop’s Visitors co-ordinator. This is a good time to talk to other Bishop’s Visitors and to get to know each other better. There is always something new to learn and, for me, the Annual Conference and Regional Meetings are an ideal way to keep up to date with some of the many changes in education.
I enjoy being a Bishop’s Visitor. It is a privilege to be invited into a school and to share the Christian Ethos that underpins the special nature of a Church School. The ever changing roles of Headteachers and Governors make huge demands on people and I hope that by being a Bishop’s Visitor I have been able to use my background to support my school, not only as a fellow professional but as a Christian Friend who has time to listen without making any judgements or further demands on their busy life.
I volunteered to be a Bishop’s Visitor several years ago, without a specific school in mind. My learned friend Mr Everett was at that time BV at both schools in Welton, so they were out and in any case Peter would be a tough act to follow. When the time came to become operational, the nearest school that had no BV, but wanted one, was Reepham Primary School, about 6 miles from Welton. At that time I don’t think I had been to Reepham, much less to the school. After a phone call to the Head Teacher I visited the school and we discussed how I could help. For some strange reason none of the volunteers were very keen to do one-to-one reading with year 3, so I was happy to do that. Shortly with the Head Teacher’s agreement my wife, also ALM, DBS checked and safeguarding trained, joined me, so then we could read with twice as many Yr 3’s.
When I first visited the school I was immediately struck by how warm and welcoming it is. The staff are friendly and helpful and the children very well mannered and happy. The school holds Collective Worship at the end of the day and we sometimes stay to enjoy this with the children, who very clearly love every moment of it. Towards the end of term when the Bishop’s letter is to be read, the Head sometimes asks the children if they can remember who I am and I have, on more than one occasion, been identified as the Bishop of Lincoln, instead of his representative.
We have walked over to Church with the children to attend services led by the Rev. Penny Green – again enjoyed by the children. Last summer we attended a school sports afternoon, where two girls came over to us and asked if they could sing to us, a splendid experience. It is very rewarding to watch the children flourish.
My second school is the William Farr Secondary School in Welton, where I took over as BV from Peter Everett on his retirement from active BV service. The school is huge, around 1500 students and the building is like a maze. I have on several occasions, attended Holy Communion in the school’s chapel at lunch time, with one or other of the Curates from our Benefice, (Welton, Dunholme, Scothern) and with the school’s excellent Chaplain, Charlotte Bloom. Attendance was around 8 students, a problem is that the school has around 120 clubs, societies and organisations, which often operate at lunch time. The school’s Carol Services last year in St Mary’s Church were a real highlight. Because of numbers there were seven services; I managed to attend five of these and read the Bishop’s letter at each one. The standard of the music provided by the students was truly amazing, the Head of Music being an incredibly accomplished lady. The Bishop’s letter was well received, and the joy of the students taking part in the service was obvious. Being BV at a large secondary school is very different from the role in a primary school, but both are splendid and rewarding in their own ways.
And - our headteachers really appreciate our BVs!
When the headteacher of Ancaster CE Primary School received an email from the Diocesan Education Centre informing him that we had enrolled a Bishop’s Visitor who would like to be assigned to his school, this was his reaction.
This is very exciting!!! Thank you so much for all of the information. We would love to have Lin Lavender as our Bishop’s Visitor - we have been waiting for someone to do this for such a long time and it is wonderful to have this in place - thank you for organising!
We look forward to hearing from you in due course once the DBS has been agreed and meeting Lin once all of the checks have taken place.
Headteacher, Ancaster Church of England Primary School
The local vicar (who is also ex officio foundation governor at the school) asked one of her parishioners if she had thought about enrolling as a Bishop’s Visitor. I sent Lin details of what the role would involve and an application form to complete if this was something that she wished to pursue. The completed form was returned, references taken up and an enhanced DBS check was done. Lin came to the office in Lincoln to do the DBS ID check and she also met with one of our senior officers for an informal chat. This is always a good opportunity for either our Bishop’s Visitor co-ordinator or a member of the education team to meet a new volunteer. As you can see from the headteacher’s reaction – the school is delighted with the partnership.
Sadly we do not have enough Bishop’s Visitors for all 141 church schools in the diocese but we do hope that the articles published on our website from Bishop’s Visitors and schools will encourage people to contact us to discuss enrolment.