A GROUNDBREAKING scheme to support young people in Bolton at key stages of their lives is set to be rolled out across Greater Manchester thanks to a £4.2m grant.

Schools in Bolton have been piloting Manchester Diocese’s Children Changing Places Project to offer support to children, young people and their families, at key points of transition in their lives, like when children start primary school and move on to secondary school — providing pastoral and spiritual care for children.

School leaders say this has been invaluable during the pandemic. Among the schools taking part are St James’ CE High in Farnworth, Canon Slade School in Bradshaw and Bolton St Catherine’s Academy in Harwood, which fall under the Bishop Fraser Trust. Pupils from Bishop Bridgeman Primary have also been involved.

Tania Lewyckyj , trust chief executive, said: “Over two years ago, the Bishop Fraser Trust schools were delighted to be part of a pilot for the new initiative ‘Children Changing Places Project’.

“The project aimed to engage children, young people and families, across Bolton, in activity that creates new discipleship pathways and supports the growth of the Christian faith in schools, parishes and the home.

“A key focus of the project was to build strong links between the home, church and school, to nurture and encourage a child in their faith, from toddler group or nursery, through primary and secondary education, and beyond.

“The chaplaincy assistants’ work has been fantastic, especially in a time of pressure on pastoral support during the pandemic. Alongside our chaplains, they have supported transition from primary to secondary, enabling young people to access pastoral and spiritual care and mentoring, at school.

“The chaplaincy assistants are an integral part of the school teams, fostering strong relationships with young people and adults, and influencing the Christian culture of the school. In addition, each chaplaincy assistant is on placement within the local parish, developing and growing youth ministry. It is excellent the church commissioners have recognised the value of such a project and are extending funding to support this vital work in other areas.”

The majority of the funding is for roles based in parishes and will fund 14 new roles, with workers focusing on children and families. The move heralds a new way of working for the church to reach out to more people.

The vision is for children, young people and families, all over Bolton, to call the church their ‘home’.

Bishop of Manchester Dr David Walker said: “This funding is testament to the confidence the Church Commissioners have in our plans to support our parishes, invest in our leaders - both lay and ordained - and grow younger and more diverse.

“It will help us make a step change in fulfilling our mission aspirations, enabling us to achieve our vision to be a worshipping, growing and transforming Christian presence at the heart of every community, sharing the love of the Lord Jesus Christ in word and deed with people of all backgrounds across our diocese.”