No-one foresaw the full impact a Guidelines for Dialogue project would have on Year 9 pupils at a high school in Luton.
The school, which has a very diverse intake in a hugely multicultural town, was already working on ways of helping the students to converse better with one another. So when we approached the school with the opportunity to help young people, who would not normally mix, to learn to engage positively with one another, the school jumped at the chance.
Eight Year 9 students from a mix of faiths, ethnicities and genders were chosen for the project. Some were chosen because the school saw in them the potential to become ambassadors for this whole-school drive. Others were chosen because it was felt that they had something to learn in terms of constructive interaction with those who had a different point of view.
Over a period of 8 weeks, the students met weekly for an hour’s workshop with The Feast where we unpacked the Guidelines for Dialogue in more detail.
It was transforming for the students. The teacher reported how the students that were taking part in the project, were using the Guidelines for Dialogue in their RE lessons. By the end of the project, students reports an increased confidence when talking about their beliefs. An atheist boy especially felt that he was more able to talk about and express his views without feeling ashamed. Others felt that taking part in the project helped them be more confident about what their beliefs actually were. Another boy, who had been chosen for the project because he was often aggressive in his points of view and unwilling to listen to others’ views in class, told us how he could now listen to someone else whom he disagreed with without arguing. The teacher agreed! For this particular pupil, being part of this project was transformational.
In the light of the impact, the school is now working on rolling out the Guidelines for Dialogue across the school. How exciting is that!