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Why peace matters
As a leading Quaker school in the UK one might naturally expect Sidcot School, Somerset, to be an advocate for peace. However, they have taken the concept
of peace onto a whole new level, having introduced a Peace and Global Studies (PGS) curriculum that is interwoven throughout the school. Sidcot is the  rst school in the UK to appoint a specialist Director of Peace and Global Studies whose role is to develop the peace agenda through creative and innovative projects. Headmaster Iain Kilpatrick reports...
So, what is Peace and Global Studies? For us it is a way of opening our students’ eyes to concepts around justice and equality, in a complex world where they are bombarded with constant “noise” from the media, the internet and social media.
It’s taking the blinkers off and developing an enquiring and analytical mind. Peace and Global Studies is about developing
an understanding of the world through a compassionate non- judgemental lens. It explores how conciliation and diplomacy might bring about different outcomes. It considers the roles of individuals as changemakers and how young people have a voice that can be heard.
This requires a different way of thinking for our students. We help them develop the skills, con dence and self-belief
so they have the courage to challenge the status quo.
Rather than treating Peace Education as a separate
subject, we have integrated
the concept through our mainstream subjects. There is liaison between the teaching staff and the Director of PGS on projects and initiatives that are relevant to the curriculum - such as the TED-Ed Club, where pupils can present an of cial
TED talk which allows them to formulate an opinion alongside enhancing their presentation and communications skills.
Outside of the classroom there
is a dedicated Peace and Global Studies centre – a place where students can go and discuss
their thoughts on their lives, tackle any of their own personal con icts or just sit and be. The centre is the focus for school- wide initiatives such as the work being done to support our ‘sister’ school in Sierra Leone, where children ravaged by the Ebola virus are now rebuilding their lives through education. Our students worked tirelessly to raise money and collect equipment to send to the school, along with boxes of spare school uniform which the children wear with immense pride.
Our ‘Let Your Life Speak’ series provides a platform for inspiring speakers to tell their story to
our students and wider members of the community. Dealing
with some challenging topics, we explore restorative justice and how the speakers have used empathy to gain greater understanding of others as a powerful force for change.
We also opened our beautiful grounds to host our annual
Festival of Peace which has grown exponentially, with
more than 1,000 visitors to
this year’s event. The Festival, which included everything from beat-boxing to a human library, brought our students face to face with extraordinary people whose stories of courage have made signi cant changes to the world.
So, what difference does this make to our students’ education and lives? We are proud that
our approach breaks the exam factory model. We have moved our philosophy into the 21st century away from a post- industrial model of rote (surface) learning that concludes with all students being squeezed through the same exam machine. We
are more interested in engaging students with their learning
so they become deep learners, inspired by what they discover for themselves as well as what they learn from their teachers and peers. Students leave us armed with a more meaningful set of skills and experiences alongside their exam results that on their own, will not de ne them in the long run.
As a Quaker School, these values have always been central to
the way we operate. We live
the philosophy – encouraging
enquiry and debate in all aspects of school life. We also use the Quaker practice of Meeting
for Worship as a tangible representation of our philosophy. Each week the whole senior school, staff and pupils, comes together for a period of re ective silence. This 20-minute meeting, allows a period of calm re ection during which anyone can speak should they wish – or not. Where everyone is equal and where teachers can be inspired by pupils and vice versa. Where younger children feel con dent to speak among older children and where everyone’s voice, or silence, is valued.
I am very proud that we have recently been accepted as one of the 15 Ashoka Changemaker schools in the UK, based on our peace education agenda and our delivery of a values-led education. This will open even more doors and opportunities to participate in social justice or environmental projects that are central to our educational philosophy and approach.
At the end of the day the results of a Sidcot education are well- rounded, well-quali ed young people who have the con dence, courage and abilities to be the changemakers of the future.
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