Twenty Sixth Form College students were selected to participate in a new discussion group programme run in partnership with Wilton Park.
Wilton Park is an executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office providing a global forum for strategic discussion.
The agency brings together leading representatives from the worlds of politics, business, academia, diplomacy, civil society and media, with the events focusing on issues of international security, prosperity and justice.
Wilton Park is a forum for global change, providing a neutral environment where conflicting views can be expressed and debated openly and calmly, allowing acceptable compromise and resolution to be achieved.
As part of this first discussion session students were asked to do some background reading relating to two interrelated questions within the overall theme of conflict and security. Two staff members from Wilton Park facilitated a group discussion concerning the nature and purpose of armed forces in the modern world and the Syrian civil war.
These topics prompted differing responses from students and encouraged meaningful conversation and debate.
The facilitators actively sought alternative views from the students as part of the process and encouraged students to draw their own conclusions.
The students were all very well prepared and spoke from a position of knowledge. All contributed to a lively and thought-provoking debate, asked mature questions and gave considered responses to the questions raised, with some holding strong opinions on the topics covered.
Steyning Grammar School student Isabell Green said: “It was really refreshing to bounce ideas and opinions off one another over a topic which is perhaps not discussed enough. Debating is enjoyable and very satisfying, especially in the presence of such knowledgeable visitors to the school.”
Wilton Park Chief Executive Richard Burge said: “Wilton Park is delighted to be a part of this collaboration with Steyning Grammar School. In my view, organisations affiliated with government have a duty to engage with their local communities and I am very happy that our organisation is able to contribute in this way.”
Ms Danielle Cook, IB Coordinator at Steyning Grammar School said: “This is a really prestigious opportunity for our Sixth Formers to work so closely with such a respected local institution like Wilton Park. This experience will also significantly develop the student’s skills of questioning, active listening and debating.”
Mr Nick Wergan, Headteacher Steyning Grammar School said: “Our collaboration with Wilton Park is an exciting development for the school; we are fortunate to have such strong links with our community neighbours, and our students will benefit hugely from working alongside such a prestigious organisation.
“We look forward to developing the link between Steyning Grammar School and Wilton Park further.”
The Discussion Group Programme will be held regularly throughout the year. It aims to develop the discussion and critical thinking skills of a small group of students who may have a career interest in international affairs, are considering reading for a degree in Politics or International Relations or who belong to Steyning Grammar School’s Debating Society.
Report and picture contributed by Steyning Grammar School.