On Monday 24th February, Young Ambassadors for RE from The Redhill Academy gave a presentation at Westminster, on RE’s contribution to cohesive society.
Their presentation, which was part of the evidence for the APPG inquiry into RE’s contribution to good community relations, focused on what skills and knowledge RE equips students with that can help foster a future of better community cohesion. They also spoke about what they had done as Young Ambassadors to spread RE throughout their local community.
The day before the oral evidence session, the Redhill Young Ambassadors for RE also spoke to Sarah Julian on BBC Radio Nottingham. The transcript of their interview is below.
Sarah Tomorrow is the first day back to school for many Nottinghamshire school children after half term. But one group of pupils won’t be spending the whole day in class, listening and learning, they’ll be the ones teaching, because they’re going down to Westminster to meet MPs. These are students from the Redhill Academy in Arnold, explaining how studying religious education at school can lead to closer communities. We’re going to hear from Lynsey Wilkinson, Head of RE at the school in Arnold and also Holly Walker and Charlotte Hartshaw who are going to Westminster tomorrow. How are you feeling about it?
Charlotte A bit nervous.
Holly It hasn’t really sunk in yet.
Sarah What are you going to say?
Charlotte Well, the reason why we’re going is to say why RE is so good for community relations, and also how we as students can contribute to community cohesion.
Sarah You’ve been before haven’t you, to Westminster?
Charlotte & Holly Yes.
Sarah So you’re old hands at it now then?
Holly Yes but you still feel the pressure of it. We have presented to the APPG on RE before.
Sarah The All Party parliamentary Group –they’re looking at RE, are they, and how well it’s working or not?
Holly Yes and we were one of five schools to go last time, but this time we’re the only school so the pressure’s on.
Sarah You must have done well last time!
Charlotte We’ve been to quite a few recently, we’ve had a lot of interest from them but also we have a lot to give as students learning the subject, so I think that’s probably why they want us there.
Sarah Do you think they’ll listen to you?
Holly Definitely, I think they will. Because it’s definitely valuable to hear from people who are going through the process of learning about RE, rather than people who have already been there. Because RE’s changed.
Sarah It’s changed since my day then? It’s not just learning about five religions and the different festivals, because that’s basically what we did.
Charlotte Well, of course we do that; it’s interesting and really important to get an understanding of that. But I think the main difference between RE then and RE now is that we really learn how to apply it, how to use it and why it’s important, which is why we really are so passionate about it – because it is so useful.
Sarah And why do you think RE – and what you’re going to talk about is RE being important to community relations and community cohesion – why is that? How does that work?
Charlotte Well we learn things like how to use language in order to disagree but also to approach things sensitively, and how to evaluate your own actions, so that what you do isn’t going to cause conflict in your society, and how to build up that community sort of feel– and express your opinions – without being offensive towards anyone, which is a really important skill to have within the community.
Sarah Well Lynsey Wilkinson is here, she’s head of RE. You must be very proud of your students, getting invited back!
Lynsey Aren’t they wonderful? I am so proud. They continue to just be so professional and the fact that they’re continually invited to these big events I think is a real testament to what they’re capable of.
Sarah I suppose RE varies massively doesn’t it, from school to school? I mean what they’re saying sounds quite impressive but it’s not always the case I should think.
Lynsey There does seem to be a problem in some schools, and certainly according to Ofsted research. I think we need to recognise, though, that that isn’t necessarily because schools don’t value RE, but it’s a reflection of the way the government has dealt with RE, certainly in terms of the English Baccalaureate. RE wasn’t recognised as a humanity alongside geography and history.
Sarah It’s the government’s fault again then, is it?
Lynsey Well, I think on this one yes. There’s been a huge impact. Firstly in uptake of numbers for RE, and secondly just damaging to RE’s reputation in general, the fact that it wasn’t recognised as a humanity alongside geography and history.
Sarah Well, I hope it goes well tomorrow! Sock it to ‘em. I’m sure you will. And I’m sure they’ll do very well. I like the way when I talked about my RE lessons you responded as if it was kind of like the olden days: well it’s different to what it was then! Because it was the olden days, really. Good luck tomorrow, I hope it goes really well for you.
Holly, Charlotte & Lynsey Thank you.