All students benefit from inclusive education and schools are responsible for fostering a culture of respect and belonging. Through workshops, retreat days and INSET training sessions, our Justice and Peace Education Worker James Trewby draws upon Catholic social teaching and the Pope’s encyclical Fratelli Tutti to promote inclusion and diversity in the hopes of diminishing discriminatory attitudes and improving awareness and acceptance of others.
After an initial welcome and opening prayer taken from Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti, James began the day’s workshop by introducing ‘see-judge-act’, before inviting the students to share their experiences of inclusion and exclusion. See-judge- act is a simple method grounded in Catholic social teaching to help us strive for social justice and solidarity. It is a process which helps us to stop and look at a situation before analysing, reflecting and taking appropriate action.
Forming the ‘see’ part of the workshop, the students were split into small breakout groups and asked to consider how discrimination affects the lives of different groups of people in our local school community as well as those in our wider communities. They researched the impact of exclusion and looked at what actions are being taken locally and nationally to change this.
Continuing on the theme of exclusion, Fr. John Boles, who has recently been assigned to the region of Britain having spent the last 20+ years in South America, talked about his experiences of race, class, gender and religious discrimination living in Peru.
Following a short break, and time to cool off with ice cream and fruit lollies, James led a number of interactive and practical exercises outdoors fulfilling the ‘judge’ part of the workshop. These activities, designed to help the students reflect both individually, and as a group on what they had learnt so far, encouraged them to evaluate their research and findings.
Upon returning indoors, the students once again split into their breakout groups to begin the ‘act’ part of the workshop. The pupils were asked to think about how they would develop and promote a culture of equality and diversity through schools, their families as well as in their wider communities. Drawing upon their research conducted in the morning’s session, the students began discussing ways in which they could make positive changes in and out of school to ensure inclusion and to promote diversity. James asked the students to design a proposal which they would present to the rest of the group as well as their Head teacher in a BBC TV ‘Dragon’s Den’ approach at the end of the session.
Besides James and the school’s head teacher Helen Seddon, Columban Communications Officer Emma Darling was also invited to sit on the panel and judge the proposals shortly before the end of the school day. The visit was a trip down memory lane for Emma who was a student at the school between the years of 2001 and 2006. She studied for her A levels at the attached sixth form college between 2006-2008 and recalls many opportunities to discover a personal faith in Jesus. This faith in Christ has been instrumental in her beginning her career with the Columbans.
Emma explains, “It was great to return to Our Lady’s as a co-worker of the Columbans; I really do have many fond memories of my time there. It was lovely to be able to give back to the community who supported me through my Catholic education and which contributed to my firm faith.” She adds, “I was delighted to be asked to sit on the ‘Dragon’s Den panel during the ‘Day with a Difference’ and to hear the student’s inclusion proposals. There were some fantastic ideas which were extremely creative and very well presented! Among them was the idea of holding festivals in school to celebrate other faiths. Young people from other faith traditions would be invited to bring in different foods, music, instruments and clothing to share with the school community in an attempt to educate and inform which I feel is a fantastic way to promote inclusion whilst building cultural awareness.”
Another great idea was to tackle social isolation among the elderly in the local community, by inviting people to come into school to share their knowledge and skills with the younger generation. One group tasked with looking at exclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community highlighted the need for better representation in the schools national curriculum.
After the presentations James wrapped up the workshop and Head of Sixth Form, Ruth Lowe read the poem ‘Hope’ from ‘Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future’, a book co-written by Pope Francis. After this Fr. John Boles delivered a very uplifting and animated blessing in Spanish using a bucket of water and brightly coloured stress toy he borrowed from a pupil!
Ruth Lowe explains, “We are proud to be an inclusive community, recognizing and embracing each other’s differences and points of view. We value learning in all forms and encourage learning about faith, ourselves and each other. James is brilliant with our students; he is very engaging and enthusiastic. The young people look forward to his visits and enjoy his workshops. It’s great for pupils to see a different face of the Church, and, inspired by our divine teacher Jesus, to be challenged to put their faith into action.”
James is a qualified teacher with an MSc in ‘Education and Training for Development’ and PhD exploring life stories of activist educators. As well as INSET days, assemblies and workshops James leads retreat days and continues to organise virtual encounters with missionaries and activists around the world. For further information or to discuss a booking with James, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.