The Hounslow SACRE conference took place on Friday 20th June 2014; it was hosted by Lampton School. The whole of year twelve at Lampton took part in the day, and we were also delighted to welcome students from Cranford Community College and Feltham Community College.
The theme for the conference was ‘Is the UK a Christian country?’ The day began with a thought provoking, and imaginative speech by Hugo Whately. The speech clearly explained the relevant issues, and framed some of the questions that we would explore during the day.
The students were then invited to tweet questions for Hugo and the assembled panel. The panel included from the Ven. K. Ariyarathana Buddhist Vihara in Chiswick, Revd. Norman Lawrence who represented Christianity, Councillor Mukesh Malhorta who represented Hinduism, Marilyn Mason, former Education Officer for the British Humanist Association, Rashid Laher who represented Islam, Emma Welemenky-Smith who represented Judaism, and Navleen Kaurn who represented Sikhism.
The students’ posed to the members of the panel, and a roving microphone was used in the audience so that student could respond to comments made by members of the panel. The students then took part in workshops organised by trainee RE teachers from the Institute of Education. The workshops were linked to the key question for the day ‘Is Britain a Christian country?’ This theme was developed in various ways, for example students had the opportunity to consider whether non-Christian religious festivals should be designated as bank holidays in the UK, the recent debates about the use of halal meat in Pizza Express, and how far Christian values are shared with non-Christians in the United Kingdom.
Students were encouraged to question their assumptions and think deeply. The feedback that students gave was very positive. Comments included ‘There were a lot of interesting ideas from the speakers’, ‘It was fun because we were able to speak to new people.’ And ‘I have learnt a lot about people’s different views on religion and other concepts.’ Students also noted that they were able to ‘think about points that I had not previously considered’ and ‘it opened up my mind’ and was ‘challenging.