Alistair Appleton, TV presenter from” Escape to the Country” visited Steyning Grammar School on Thursday 7th November to spend the day with Year 11, 12 and 13 students.
As well as being a TV presenter Alistair is a psychotherapist, a teacher of mindfulness meditation and a practicing Buddhist.
Alistair talked to five groups of students who were studying Religious Education GCSE/A level or the International Baccalaureate looking at philosophical, ethical and religious issues.
Alistair also spent some time working with 120 of our year 11 Religious Education students helping them to understand Buddhist teachings specifically relating to ethics.
Each of the GCSE classes have been discussing Christian and Buddhist perspectives on modern day issues and so really appreciated hearing someone else’s perspective.
Year 11 student Dylan Fane said: “It made me look at how I treat people in my every day life. It gave me a whole new mind-set.”
Samantha Bland in year 11 commented: “We learnt more from Alistair than we could ever learn from a text book. Alistair allowed us to ask whatever we wanted. I enjoyed it very much. The questions were brilliantly answered.”
For Ella Gardner in year 11 her surprise was how calm Alistair was despite talking to 120 students. “Alistair answered all of our questions and taught us many new things, whilst staying calm and centred.”
The 120 students were also delighted when Alistair was asked to demonstrate how you could get into a half lotus position for meditation, which he did with grace!
Alistair commented: “It always does my heart good to hang out with teenagers and the students I met were thoughtful and inquiring and keen to know what Buddhism offered.”
In each class students prepared questions for Alistair in advance and then had the opportunity to discuss these with him.
Alistair noted “The one thing that shone out very clearly from those enquiring minds today was their readiness to take on something new.”
Alistair spoke with our Sixth Form Religious Studies A-Level students on his approach to ethics, as well as talking about what mindfulness means to him.
Alistair said: “Realising what damage unexamined thoughts can cause us in the long run is the real power of mindfulness. I wish I learned it when I was a teenager!”
Students were also given the opportunity to practice a short period of mindfulness. Megan Collyer year 13 said of this: “At the end of the short session I felt really relaxed, calm and happy. It is now something that some of my classmates and I are going to explore further.”
Mr Mark Warwick, Learning Leader, Religious Education at Steyning Grammar School said: “This experience will help to prepare our year 11 students for their trial exam at the end of November which includes sections on Buddhist teachings. It really has helped to bring the subject alive for them.”
Headteacher Nick Wergan commented that “It’s always fantastic to see our students explore different beliefs and values.”
“The day has been a huge success, it is so wonderful that Alistair was prepared to come into school and work with us. There has been a real buzz around the school today and we cannot thank Alistair enough,” said Miss Lindsey Thompson, Assistant Headteacher, KS4 who organised the visit.
“We very much look forward to his return.”
As Alistair then wrote on his blog: “Thanks to all the students and staff at Steyning for such a inspiring day. I’ll be back…and I’ll be making you all practice the ‘Buddha-sit’, yes, I will….”