What kind of world would you like to live in? This was the big question we asked our 3rd and 4th Year pupils. Such an important question that we dedicated an entire day to a Compassion Conference based around issues of sexism and racism and how we can empower each other to stay positive, be a changemaker and ‘raise our gaze’.
Guest speakers from around the country were invited to talk about significant, hard-hitting issues such as sexism, racism, female genital mutilation (FGM), misogyny and unconscious bias. We were delighted to welcome three guest speakers who were simply incredible to be around and learn from.
One of our speakers was Louisa Adjoa Parker who talked about intersectionality and how growing up in a mixed-heritage household in the South West with multiple marginalised identities and few role models affected her growing up. During her workshop, pupils discussed what we could do to be changemakers in our community, recognise micro-aggressions, and use our voices to progress change.
Peter Radford also spoke to pupils about his experiences of being a white male and how he has helped to address his issues of sexism and racism. Pupils were asked to examine the difference between equality and equity and discussed unconscious bias and stereotyping through a series of impactful and thought-proving films.
We also welcomed Hibo Wardere, an inspirational Somali-born writer and campaigner against female genital mutilation (FGM). She talked graphically about her experience growing up in Somalia and how FGM has affected her life and continues to affect the lives of millions of women in the UK and globally. She explained how to advocate for justice and how men and fathers play a huge role in driving change.
The Compassion Conference was put together by Miss Hill and Mr Picton as part of our School community value for this academic year. It was designed to inform pupils, initiate conversations, and get them thinking about some significant issues facing our community and society.
Staff were very impressed by how pupils responded to the day and asked them to ‘raise your gaze’ and put themselves in other people’s shoes, be more aware and always speak and think with compassion. The conference was very much one step in a journey to champion empathy and compassion within our school community, with empowerment to tackle injustice close to home and wider afield a core objective. The day ended with a pledge asking pupils to consider their role in the community and shine a light on some of the ways that they can help to build even greater compassion and empathy across the school community and the wider world.
Miss Hill, Head of PSHEE and Religious Studies teacher, said “The Compassion Conference was about raising our gaze and trying our very best to live by compassion and empathy. Our pupils didn’t just do that, but they proactively tried to put themselves in other people’s shoes and see different perspectives to their own. They listened, discussed, questioned and delved into what we mean by sexism and racism and how we overcome discrimination in our society. It was incredible to see and we hope, just one step on a journey of endless reflection, learning and dedication to making the world a more compassionate place to live.”
Feedback from our pupils was positive, reflective and mature too:
“It was amazing; emotional, and it put some things into perspective for me.” Jess, 4th Year.
“Today was good, it was eye-opening, and it has definitely made me more understanding of other people’s lives and the issues they might face.” Charlie, 3rd Year.
“Nice to learn more about inequality, and I now have a good understanding of FGM and its impacts.” Jowan 4th Year.
“I think it was very interesting hearing what Devon and Cornwall is like to live in from another person’s point of view. For example they have very few role models around them who they can look up to in particularly during the 1980s and 1990s compared to major cities”
“ Peter’s session was very interesting because it told us what to do if we encounter racism in our day-to day lives which is, tell a person you know and trust. It was also interesting when we focused on how we shouldn’t presume somebody’s nationality.”
At the end of the conference, Mr Murphy reminded pupils to speak out if any issues or concerns were discussed today that directly affected them or if they witnessed unacceptable behaviour towards others. Pupils were reminded to speak to their tutors, Heads of Year or any teaching staff in the first instance. Teachers are also prepared for any ripples that the day may have set in motion.
Our sincerest thanks to our three incredible guest speakers, to Miss Hill, Mr Picton and all the staff involved in running the event and to the 3rd and 4th Year pupils for showing such great maturity and empathy.