On Monday 24th June, the Broughton Young Ambassadors for RE team visited London to speak to a group of MPs about why RE matters to young people.
On our arrival at Westminster Hall we were welcomed by Hugo Whately who gave us an interesting introduction to the history of the building. It was inspiring to know that we were standing in the place where Nelson Mandela first addressed the British parliament as president of South Africa.
At this point, the importance of what we were doing suddenly hit us and some of us began to get a bit nervous about what lay ahead!
Stephen Lloyd, MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on RE began the proceedings, explaining his commitment to RE. Then Helen Harrison (vice chair of the Religious Education council) spoke passionately about the importance of good RE for young people today....
and then it was our turn!
Being first in the alphabet, Broughton were given the task of beginning the presentations. Saskia's video didn't work due to poor internet (if you want to see it you can find it below this article), but we managed to remain professional and present our views.
As Young Ambassadors, we feel that RE has something different and special to offer in the school curriculum. RE is not just learning about the subject, it is also learning from it – and because of this it affects each of us personally in a way that can really make a difference to our lives. Studying RE or RS at GCSE is not just preparing to pass an exam – it is an essential part of preparing for life. RE is really about being human. Religions have been studying big questions for thousands of years and learning from their wisdom is helpful to us all. We don’t have to agree with an idea to find it helpful, but you can be inspired by the thinking of others and apply it in a way that helps each of us to define who we are.
We believe that the subject matters – but we feel that more people need to understand what good RE is – and to do this it is helpful to think about what RE is not. RE is not brainwashing, it is not teaching people to be religious and it’s also not just a study of religion. RE today is about developing an understanding of beliefs and the impact that these have on the people in our world, individually and as communities. It is also about developing a set of skills and attitudes that will be with you for life – to open your mind to a number of possible paths, the ability to make informed judgements, to be able to empathise and communicate effectively and to be able to apply these skills to the diverse and complex world that we share.
We were then able to listen to the other schools. Sonya found it particularly interesting to see how the different schools had approached the challenge of investigating and promoting RE in different ways, and also to see what was similar in our attitudes towards RE. Chloe thought it was fabulous that young people were being given the opportunity to speak and that people actually wanted to hear what we had to say about RE.
After a lovely tea and some fantastic cakes we were given the opportunity to chat to people informally and share more of our ideas. Habeeba spoke to Aliya Azam from the RE council and Al Khoei Foundation, whilst Chloe and Will searched for MPs to interview. Finally, they managed to speak to Fiona Bruce (MP for Congleton) but were disappointed to hear that she had not been there for the presentations. However, Chloe was pleased with the responses given to her question about the need to improve the provision for RE and felt that there was a genuine support for the subject.
And then it was time to make our way back through London and catch the train home. The team were all very impressed with how much we gained from the day - not just the obvious skills such as confidence and public speaking - but also an understanding of how to navigate the London underground!
"Today has been educational in so many ways. It was a privilege to be able to represent our school in this way and to have the opportunity to listen to the opinions of others." (Saskia)
"It was an amazing day and a once in a lifetime experience." (Habeeba)
"I enjoyed the whole experience and being in the vibrant atmosphere of London." (Sonya)
"It was an interesting and fun experience that I would repeat if I had the choice." (Will)
"It was a fabulous day. I loved every minute of it." (Chloe)
For more details and photographs go to the RE council website