Oasis Academy South Bank – a brand new secondary school - officially opened its doors to local young people, earlier this month (September).
The new school is the latest addition to the Oasis community hub in Waterloo, of which Oasis Church Waterloo, led by Baptist minister the Revd Steve Chalke, is the founding component. Along with the primary school - Oasis Academy Johanna - and the church, the hub runs a debt advice centre, a Foodbank, a community café, a coaching service and a wide variety of other children’s and youth support programmes. In early New Year 2014 the church will also launch a Credit Union.
By ensuring that all these services are joined up and rooted in the same ethos, Oasis Church’s ten year goal is to see the entire community transformed for the better.
In establishing the new academy, the church community has played a central role by creating the initial vision, gathering support from the community, recruiting students and providing the school with an active base of volunteers and creating a joined up approach to governance.
The Waterloo Church became part of Oasis exactly ten years ago with the goal of developing a holistic and integrated vision to serve as the hub of its community. But, as part of the Oasis family of academies, Oasis Academy South Bank will also be able to draw upon the experience and knowledge of an established network of schools.
Mr Chalke, senior minister of Oasis Church Waterloo explained that the church is drawing on its own history. 'The records show that Oasis Church Waterloo – then known as Surrey Chapel - was the first church in the country to launch a ground breaking ‘Sunday School’ back in 1786,' he said. 'Over the next few decades it went on to set up several ‘Ragged Schools’.
'These original ‘free schools’ were set up to provide free education to children whose families could not afford private schooling – and that’s exactly what we are still about, creating world class education and equality of opportunity for every young person.
'I believe passionately that the Church still has unique role to play in providing education to those young people who need it most. However, we can only grasp this opportunity, as we commit to imitating Christ by creating truly inclusive communities which serve all regardless of their race, religion, gender, creed or sexual orientation.
'Oasis strives to give everyone equal access to life’s best opportunities regardless of their starting points – we believe that this is at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. That’s why we’ve invested so heavily in education and community services over the years.'