TISCA came into being in its present form over 25 years ago. We asked one of the founders, Peter Leroy, a former Head of Monkton Prep School, to do a bit of research for us into the beginnings and objectives of TISCA.

How did TISCA start? / TISCA – The beginnings

The Independent Schools Christian Alliance (TISCA) was formed into a trust in 1995 by a group of about 50 independent school Christian heads. They had been meeting regularly in London since 1988 under the title of the Wadhurst Fellowship. The intention was to adopt a more outward-looking and pro-active role, seeking to provide an intelligent evangelical Christian voice within the independent sector of education, and perhaps beyond.

The Wadhurst Fellowship

This had started with exploratory meetings at Wadhurst College about promoting Christian schools called by the Head, Daphne Swatman. Also involved was the Revd John Eddison (Wadhurst Governor, Chaplain to IAPS, Scripture Union staff member). It widened its reach under the leadership of Christopher Bacon (HM Dean Close) as a gathering of invited evangelical-minded heads, at the Royal Commonwealth Society in February 1988. He acted thereafter as both Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. Robin Vickers, Bursar of Wadhurst College, assisted with the organisation, in due course becoming Treasurer of TISCA. The twice-yearly meetings were much valued, but the Wadhurst Fellowship confined itself to providing mutual support and encouragement, along with a forum for the exchange of ideas. A different Head chaired each meeting, but a constitution drafted by Richard Blake (HM Luckley-Oakfield) was approved in 1991. Attendance wavered, perhaps because of some uncertainty of purpose, along with the cost of travel.

When Wadhurst College finally closed in the early 1990s (after some attempts at amalgamation), John Eddison encouraged his governor colleagues to allocate a significant residual sum to the formation of a new organisation with evangelical Christian educational purposes.

The case for change

Secular protagonists of independent education stoutly defended its moral merits but seemed to have little to say about its spiritual responsibility, or about the cause of Christian education in particular. In order to fill this vacuum, TISCA would need to present the Biblical case for Christian education articulately, convincingly, and unitedly.

Most members of the Wadhurst Fellowship entered the teaching profession in the days when Christians saw vocation in terms of witness and evangelism and did not feel it necessary to justify independent education. Many of their schools were not within the evangelical tradition and were either nominally Christian or quite secular foundations.

These Heads now found themselves in positions of influence and authority without a coherent theological philosophy to support what they were doing. This was at a time when there were misgivings about independent education in general, about boarding in particular, and therefore misunderstanding existed.

A well-attended meeting in 1993 commissioned ‘Three Wise men’ (Ken Barnes – lately HM Eversfield, John Eddison, and Michael Coates – former Head of Monkton Combe Junior School and General Secretary of IAPS) to meet and report on the possible formation of a purposeful alliance. The proposal to establish a trust to support committed Christians in independent schools and promote Biblical thinking in education was warmly received.

The name on the initial trust deed in 1994 included the term ‘Evangelical’; but the suggestion that its public name should include this word met with concern, especially among those who were Heads of schools where it might alienate and prove counter productive. The intention was that the new partnership should also serve a wider Christian teacher constituency. Following a vote among the Heads, in April 1995 it was named The Independent Schools Christian Alliance. The official launch took place in Church House, Westminster that October, where Michael Coates gave an address entitled, ‘For such a time as this’.

TISCA emerges

TISCA’s vision and objectives, along with its Biblical underpinning and rationale, were set out in an 80-page consultancy report written by Michael Coates. Commissioned by a Consultative Committee chaired by Richard Blake, it was produced in 1995. The Biblical Christian case for being involved in independent boarding and day education within the contemporary context was set out compellingly. The emphasis was on the Christian calling to be proactively ‘transformationist’ rather than simply ‘conservationist’.

TISCA’s objectives and intentions were expressed as four spheres of activity:

  • Spirituality – By providing opportunities for Heads of independent schools to meet for prayer, study, and fellowship.
  • Witness – By demonstrating an active and sensitive Christian presence within the independent sector.
  • Discussion – By creating a forum for debate and exchange of ideas on a Christian response to matters of professional concern.
  • Research – By supporting and encouraging in-depth consideration from a Biblical perspective of issues which relate to the education and spiritual nurture of young people.

The founding trustees appointed in 1995 were: Richard Blake, Chairman; Ken Barnes, General Secretary 1995-8; Robin Vickers, Treasurer; Hugh Bradby (HM Kingsmead); Revd. John Eddison; Michael Coates; Revd. Michael Hepworth (HM Birkdale); Gill Morris (HM Fernhill Manor); John Richardson (HM Culford); Peter LeRoy (lately HM Monkton JS and Vice Chair IAPS). At this juncture Christopher Bacon decided to step aside. That TISCA was established and developed so quickly and efficiently was undoubtedly due to the capability and dedication of Ken Barnes, assisted by his wife Margaret.

Full membership was open to Christian Heads of any independent school. Governors, staff, parents, and others were welcomed as Associate Members. TICSA aimed to provide support, advice, training, guidance, information, and fellowship. The new trust became a member organization of the Evangelical Alliance (EA) and adopted its Basis of Faith. TISCA set out to work in close cooperation with other organisations in the field of education who shared similar aims and values. These included the Association of Christian Teachers, Scripture Union, and in due course, the Titus and Stewards Trusts.

TISCA emerged as the only organization of its kind working specifically in the independent sector, offering Christians the chance to exchange ideas with each other and work collaboratively. TISCA’s members soon realised that they had the potential to influence educational thinking at the highest levels. Its well-attended meetings in London attracted a range of distinguished speakers. Appointing a series of experienced and capable general secretaries enabled TISCA to flourish in the years ahead.

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