Pupils from faith and non-faith communities came together to study social issues including racism, fairness, justice for all, tolerance and respect at a special conference last week.

The inter-school religious education conference for 12 to 15 year olds, organised by Wolverhampton Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) and supported by Westhill Endowment, highlighted the values that are shared between different religions and world views.

Pupils examined case studies together with the help of Lat Blaylock, facilitator and editor of the national RE Today magazine, and their religious education teachers.

They included Hans Olssen’s ‘Stairs of Respect’, a sociological description of the language of tolerance and respect, Rabbi Hugo Gryn’s experience of Hanukkah 1944 in a concentration camp, examples of racism in British and other societies and a comparison of John Wesley and Edward Colston, two Christians who had statues in Bristol.

They also took part in a discussion game about the nature of evil, considering different forms of prejudice and discrimination, analysed examples of racism from the UK, and looked at the work of Dr Hany El Bana, founder of West Midlands charity Islamic Relief, while activities ‘Human Bar Chart’ and ‘Paper the Walls with your Wisdom’ gave every pupil the chance to consider and record their own ideas on some key issues and priorities.

There was even a sculpture workshop in which teams of pupils created 3D resources to express their responses to the key themes of the day.

Attendees were asked to think about how they could become ambassadors for respect through RE in their own schools and were provided with resources to help them in this role.

Councillor Chris Burden, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: "Wolverhampton is a multi-cultural, multi-faith city, and so religious education is a very important part of every student's learning.

“Events such as this conference provide a safe space to young people, whether they are religious or not, to explore issues which can be challenging such as racism, tolerance, respect, and justice for all.”

Religious education must be taught in all schools by law, but it is not part of the national curriculum and it is therefore the responsibility of local councils to ensure there is a Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education in place and a locally agreed syllabus available to schools. 

Wolverhampton SACRE represents a balance of all interests in the local community. It provides a framework for the study of religious education in schools in the city and advises the council on how to improve teaching and collective worship for schools in the city.