Friends Council on Education (FCE)
FCE provides Friends schools in the U.S. (and international affiliates) with leadership and support on Quaker matters. It aims to foster the Quaker ethos of Friends schools, and to maintain and enrich their relationships with the wider community of Friends. FCE serves as a voice for Friends education on national matters.
Origin and History
FCE was established at a meeting of 90 Quaker educators in 1931, convened by Morris and Hadassah Leeds. The vision was to facilitate collaboration among Friends schools to foster the Quaker ethos. For the next 35 years f this work was organised on a largely voluntary basis, with some paid administrative assistance. Strands of activity developed that continue to the present day – publications, peer networks, professional development, workshops for educators new to Quakerism and speaking out on national issues.
There were several early publications, beginning with an article written by the keynote speaker at the inaugural conference, John Lester, entitled ‘The Place of the Quaker School in Contemporary Education’. A newsletter, The Courier, was launched in 1951. In 1998 it was replaced by a more substantial bi-annual publication, ‘Chronicles of Quaker Education’.
Peer networks bring Friends school educators together from areas of similar interest and discipline. The first peer network gathering was for ‘teachers of religion’ in 1934. FCE held its first conference for teachers and administrators new to Quakerism at Pendle Hill in 1949. In 1958 FCE launched additional professional development programs for teachers, drawing on the experience it had gained from its networks and publications. Participants took part in regular seminars, and visited each other’s schools.
Strengthening diversity work in Friends schools is a longstanding concern and a current FCE strategic initiative. An early example was the 1941 publication of ‘Statistics and Attitudes on Enrolment of Negroes’ in which FCE reported on a survey of Friends Schools. It clearly showed a need for greater diversity within Friends schools, and was also intended as an input into a national debate. In 1967 FCE received a substantial gift allowing the Council to hire its first executive director, Tom Brown, and over the ensuing years the existing strands of work were strengthened and augmented.
In 1968 a small grants programme was set up to fund school projects focussed on Quaker testimonies. Research studies were sponsored, such as the 1988 study of ‘Moral Growth’ in Friends secondary schools, and the 2005 publication of ‘Diversity Action Research’.
In recent years FCE has taken advantage of developing technologies to create online forums, electronic communication with its members, online programs, blogs, webinars and podcasts. Increasing attention has been given to leadership, governance and relationships with the Quaker community, culminating in the 2003 establishment of the ‘Institute for Engaging Leadership in Friends Schools’, the preparation of ‘Principles of Good practice for Friends School Boards, and every Trustee’, in 2005, and the 2006 ‘Care Relationship’ which gives guidance on relationships with Quaker meetings. Currently FCE hosts a blog on governance, Trustee U, and a blog on pedagogy, Quaker School Voices.
Funding, governance and scale of operation
FCE has a Board of Directors with 24 members from schools across the U.S., which meets three times a year, with several committees for different aspects of its work. Its funding comes from membership subscriptions, fees for workshops and other events, legacies, grants for specific initiatives, and donations. The annual turnover is about $600k.
Home base, physical offices and countries worked in
FCE is based in the Friends Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US, and most of its work is in the US. Since 2004 it has welcomed International Affiliates including Friends schools in the UK, Friends school Tokyo, Friends’ School in Hobart, Tasmania, Ramallah Friends School, Kenyan Friends Schools, the Bolivian Quaker Education Fund, and others.
Methods of work
The board of directors, executive director and staff team review existing work annually, taking account of feedback from users, and then further develop and refine the strategic initiatives. Major changes, including new programs are put to the Board for approval. Programs are prepared and delivered by FCE staff and a network of approved consultants.