Archbishop gives his blessing to Norwich academy
One of Britain's top churchmen defended the link between faith and schooling yesterday as he officially opened Norfolk's first academy.
The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Dr John Sentamu, did the honours at the Open Academy in North Norwich, which has a Christian ethos thanks to the sponsorship of the Bishop of Norwich and Christian businessman Graham Dacre.
Despite the �20m academy sticking to the national curriculum and avoiding the label 'faith school', the link has been the subject of some controversy.
Yesterday, though, the Archbishop said the ethos was positive.
He said: 'What's at the heart of a Christian ethos? It's that everybody is made in God's likeness and image, and they are of such unique worth that they must be respected and loved, and everybody has something to contribute to the common good.
'The ethos tries to look to the gifting in each person. To come close to God is always to come close to humanity.'
The Archbishop said the academy, which opened in September and replaced Heartsease High, was 'spectacular', and added: 'I hope the children will love it.'
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But he added: 'It's not all about the building, it's about the community that you create inside the building. They've got to try to care for one another and be a community.
'If you come from a home where things are not at their best and come into the school here, you cannot help but feel good about yourself.'
The Archbishop also told the EDP that his best Christmas present this year would be 'for everybody in the country to be in church on Christmas Day.'
Earlier, during the official opening ceremony, he unveiled a plaque, gave what he called the 'cathedral of learning' his blessing - and had some words of wisdom for the students.
He said: 'This academy is not for the teachers or the parents, it is for you. I want to thank everybody who has contributed to building this cathedral of learning.
'The academy will draw out the best from each of you, but it takes the whole community to make it work.'
He added: 'Live in hope, have faith, live in the presence of God, be involved in the delivery of your own learning and be ready for everything.'
The Archbishop presented Wedgewood anti-slavery medallions to academy principal Jon Platten, before calling six students to the front to illustrate the value of pulling together.
He was then treated to accomplished musical performances by pianist Dominika Szymanska, electric guitarist Joshua Fiske and vocalist Natasha Stapley.
The Archbishop also told the students about how he had been educated in a school made from mud in a village in Uganda in Africa.
He said: 'The primary school was a walk of a mile away. The secondary school was 12 miles. I am very grateful to a missionary, who gave me a Raleigh bicycle to help me to get there.'
After the ceremony, the VIPs were treated to a buffet lunch and a tour of the building.
George Nobbs, county councillor for Crome, which includes the academy, said: 'It's magnificent for local children. Everybody says that there's a tangible change in the way children behave in Heartsease since the opening of the academy.
'One member of staff told me that the students started off asking for extra work over lunchtime. That demand became so great that they had to open after school.
'Now they have to open at the weekend at the children's request. That speaks volumes for the vision.'