A Quaker Education

The values of the Society of Friends have been at the heart of Bootham School since it was founded in 1823.  The purpose of Bootham’s Quaker Education is to liberate and equip its young people to flourish as adults and to live adventurous lives that will serve to create a better world.

Quakers or Friends as they are sometimes known have been forward-looking educationalists ever since George Fox established schools for both boys and girls in the 17th century: and equality of opportunity for both sexes has been a continuing thread of Quakerism throughout history.

Quakers believe that faith requires action in the world so Quaker Schools such as Bootham aim to develop a caring community, which values the peaceful resolution of conflict, and provides opportunities for service to others, especially those less fortunate.

Friends have a long tradition of putting love into action, and the Quaker testimonies are reflected in the life of the school. Students grow into compassionate and responsible adults who recognise their interconnectedness with the larger community.

This Quaker sense of community does not depend on everyone having identical beliefs, but from worshipping, sharing and working together. The Quaker ethos sits happily with young people from all backgrounds and faiths and at Bootham we welcome students and staff of all faiths and none.

Quaker Beliefs

The Quaker tenets of simplicity, tolerance, equality and peace reach out beyond the boundaries of any particular faith. Quakers believe in strong encouragement of the individual. Each person has the capacity to be good, the ability to see the Light of God, and the ability to put that truth to good use.

Bootham School provides a different kind of learning environment. Students acquire the academic qualifications they need to go on to the next stage of education, but they also acquire the wisdom needed to lead a ‘good life:  a strong sense of social understanding, the skills to deal with adversity, tolerance and respect for others, and a strong sense of self-worth.

Comments below are from the Independent Schools Inspectorate report on Bootham School, January 2014

"The pupils’ moral development is excellent. At all ages, they have a well-developed sense of right and wrong, behave well and are noticeably courteous. In the Quaker tradition, the onus of responsibility is placed firmly on the individual. They recognise the importance of their individual actions and their effect on the community as a whole."

Historical Background

The Religious Society of Friends, (Quakers) was originated by George Fox (1624-1691) during a period of political upheaval and social change in England. The established Catholic and Anglican churches were caught up in conflicts. They were preoccupied with power struggles rather than providing help to the victims of upheaval in a violent century. This resulted in thousands of “seekers” who were looking for something they could believe in and that would give meaning to their lives.

One such seeker was George Fox. After years of spiritual questioning, he had a revelation on Pendle Hill, gateway to the English Lake District. This revelation led to the birth of the Religious Society of Friends and has been at the heart ever since. His essential insight was that there is “that of God” in everyone, and that one can gain access to the God through stillness and the practice of silence.

Meeting for Worship

Meeting for Worship is an opportunity for quiet reflection. For many, this simply means being quiet and thinking about the day ahead. For some, it is a time to think about friends and loved ones. For others, it is a time for deeper reflection and contemplation.

Recent research into the mental health of young people has highlighted the value of mindfulness lessons in schools. Quakers have acknowledged the power of silence for hundreds of years and Meeting for Worship is an important part of the school timetable.

As a school community, Bootham gathers quietly for Meeting most mornings. Each meeting begins and ends with period of silence. Some days, there is a planned contribution from students and staff. This might be a piece of music, a reading, a story or a poem. At other times, someone may be moved to stand and speak.

The experience of sitting together in silence is something which students learn to appreciate deeply with many taking the benefits of quiet reflection through to their life beyond school.

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