Students debate ‘big questions’ at beliefs conference

The panel at the Sixth Form Conference
The panel at the Sixth Form Conference

STUDENTS were asked to question their beliefs at the annual Sixth Form Conference at Steyning Grammar School.

Organiser Mark Warwick designed the event to give students the opportunity to consider current affairs, philosophical, ethical, political and religious issues.

It involved 270 year-12 students and a small selection of key stage four students, who were given a warm-up session to encourage them to speak out.

Mr Warwick said: “I have been really pleased that the students wanted to speak right from the start.

“Students are developing their own views as they listen to each other and are supporting each others views, which is positive and gives great hope for how our students will contribute in the future to the wider society.”

Assistant head teacher Lindsey Thompson chaired the diverse panel, which included Nick Hopkinson from European Movement UK, Quaker John Ashcroft, Sara Mohanna representing Islam, philosopher Jacob Berkson, Julia Begbie and Christian minister the Rev Andrew Fadoju.

Student Oliver Morris

Student Oliver Morris

In a Question Time style session, the panel answered questions from the students, with the aiming of stimulating a lively debate. Topics included hatred, equality and democracy.

Miss Thompson said: “As the chairman of the conference, three things were necessary for its success – a good panel, great questions and lively interactions from the students.”

Mr Hopkinson added: “I have been impressed by the contribution of students. It’s a good opportunity for them to express themselves and broaden their horizons and it is impressive to see them engaging in topical issues.”

For the second session, students were split into discussion groups to consider questions put to them by the panel. The students then returned to the conference to give feedback to the panel.

It’s a good opportunity for them to express themselves and broaden their horizons and it is impressive to see them engaging in topical issues

Nick Hopkinson, one of the panel members

Head teacher Nick Wergan said: “Our students again showed that they not only have the confidence and curiosity to ask the big questions, but that they also have a shared responsibility to help come up with the answers.

“We think this conference gives students the opportunity to have a discussion about things that really matter.”

Conference speaker the Rev Andrew Fadoju

Conference speaker the Rev Andrew Fadoju