Bishop Johan

It’s not every day you see a Bishop dancing and singing along to Jungle Book’s “The Bear Necessities of Life,” in Swedish. But it’s not every day that Johan Dalman, Bishop of Strängnäs from Sweden visits a Cornish primary school in Camborne and exclaims that he has never, ever, been in a school like it.

Young Liam Thompson and Anya Caplin were extraordinarily articulate ambassadors for their school, St Meriadoc C of E Junior Academy, and could not have done a better job in sharing all the things they love about life in their primary school. They spoke enthusiastically about the achievements of their fellow pupils in reading, writing, behaviour and, most touchingly, about their kindness to each other.

This little school sits in the heart of Camborne, an economically challenged town with high levels of unemployment that doesn’t usually feature on tourism-must-sees, yet it is a destination that would encourage everyone not to lose faith in education. Not just Christian, but life values of friendship, forgiveness, courage, trust, truthfulness and thankfulness are not just pasted on the walls and filling every corner, but are embedded in the hearts of this community. On the front page of their website is a notice saying “Believe you can,” and after spending an hour or so in the company of the staff and pupils of this gem of a school, no one was in any doubt that the children believed they could.

“Where did you get your inspiration from?” asked the Bishop Johan of head teacher Bethan Anderson and executive principle Sam Jones. They both explained that they had worked a long time to create the school that we visited that day, spending time visiting other schools, re-cycling the best of what they saw. They explained how a lot of what they do is building relationships with the parents, encouraging them to support what goes on in the school day.

 “One of the main things you give the children is hope,” said Bishop Johan. “It’s everywhere: ‘You’re talented, you’re a good reader, good friend, good at drawing, you can always succeed somewhere!’ It’s just great!”

He was particularly impressed with a recent initiative to invite working parents and friends into the school. Liam and Anya were especially pleased because the children themselves had written the letters to ask them to visit – last year the teachers wrote and didn’t get such a good response!

In Sweden, the bishop explained that they have very few Christian schools like we do here, which made it even more special for him to visit St Meriadoc. He loved the fact that even though the school had a Christian ethos that clearly ran through everything they did, the school also embraced other religions and instilled a sense of respect and understanding in the children for people of different faiths. It is all part of the school’s desire to offer an irresistible invitation to learning. As they say, “Learning is more than taking in facts – it’s opportunity, experiences, challenge and much more.”  An ethos that Bishop Johan warmly appreciated on his recent visit.