Thatcham sixth grade students to ask ‘hard-hitting’ questions at the Kennet School religious forum

Thatcham sixth grade students will ask the tough questions at the Kennet School Faith Forum in January.

Grade 12 students will come together with a panel of five representatives from different faiths to discuss, reflect and challenge their different belief systems.

The event is part of a wider extension of university studies in school to prepare young people for adulthood.

Councilors and MP Laura Farris meet with the sixth grade students and answer their questions. Photo by: Kennet School.

The Preparation for Adult Life program gives them the opportunity to experience the world and life after school.

Principal Gemma Piper said young adults are “aware of the pressures that come their way” later in life and are proactive in co-creating these learning opportunities with school.

She said: “We adapt it every year, we get feedback. A few years ago they asked about mortgages.

Sixth-year students participate in a Political Question Hour as part of their adult studies.  Photo by: Kennet School (53708590)
Sixth-year students participate in a Political Question Hour as part of their adult studies. Photo by: Kennet School (53708590)

“They came back and said when that happens we have to know where to start,” which is what economics teachers have now gone through the process.

A Question Time style panel is another activity where MPs visit and discuss topics with children, giving them the space and opportunity to discuss their region and understand politics at large.

The faith-based forum operates in a similar fashion and sees representatives of the Buddhist, Humanist, Muslim and Christian faiths respond to “hard-hitting” questions from students.

She said other schools can avoid this kind of discussion, but for the Kennet School it’s considered “really important.”

“At the event, the students are respectful and the questions are hard-hitting,” she said. “For us, it gets fiery.

“The panel members know this is the case.

The students prepare the forum ahead of the event itself, which offers “individual reflection” before entering into the discussion.

“They prepare in advance to reflect on themselves, where they stand in what they believe in,” Ms. Piper said.

“We encourage reflection, it’s not just an opportunity to ask questions, it’s to reflect on yourself.”

The Faith Forum is not something new at Kennet School, it has been held in the past.

Ms Piper noted that last year had gone differently due to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, and the previous year was the first to have taken place.

She said: “We are really looking forward to hosting it in person.”

The five-member panel will be chaired by Rev. David Taylor and will include Rev. Gareth Milliken representing the Buddhist Priory of Reading, Jamie Howell representing the Berkshire Humanists, Kareem Sharawi representing the Muslims of Newbury and Simon Edwards representing the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics.

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