New guide helps churches support Northern Ireland’s schools

Friday September 8th 2023

Clergy are often asked to become involved in the life of local schools, and so the Church of Ireland’s Board of Education (Northern Ireland) has published a Clergy Guide to Schools to share information on how schools work, and what a clergyperson might be expected or asked to do while ministering in Northern Ireland.

This seven-page booklet covers a brief history of the school system, what is involved in being a school governor in a primary school and a post-primary school, collective worship and Religious Education, and providing pastoral support to principals and members of staff. 

The Church of Ireland, alongside the Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church, has a right to nominate ‘transferor’ governors – a term referring to the historic transfer of most of their schools into state control in return for a continued Christian ethos and role for Churches in controlled schools.  Clergy are encouraged to not feel any pressure to take on the role of governor but to make sure that the right person is appointed; schools may welcome a conversation about what skills and experience, from clergy and others involved in church and community life, would be helpful for them. 

These are some of the many ways in which local churches help schools, week in and week out, throughout the year and around the country. More a fifth of Church of Ireland parishes in Northern Ireland already have engaged with their local schools in new and innovative ways, which may include helping to fund projects such as gardens or prayer spaces or providing volunteer reading assistants, help with extra-curricular clubs, and supporting parents in their language and study skills. 

Launching the guide, Archbishop John McDowell, who chairs the Board, said: “The Church’s involvement in education is part of the contribution we make to the well-being of children and of society in general. In other words, it is an act of service and of discipleship for which we can and should equip ourselves as well as we can. I know that this short guide will help in that practical work of preparation for all transferor governors, and I commend it to you.” 

Several projects which we’ve come across are listed in the guide, and the Board may also be able to provide funding to help in developing these important local relationships between schools and parishes.  For further information, please contact the Secretary, Dr Peter Hamill, at  

The Clergy Guide to Schools is available on the Church of Ireland website through this link:  


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