GCSE Revision and Sixth Form Conferences
Sixth Form Conferences
Sixth Form Conferences offer 17 year olds an opportunity to debate current issues in a unique setting.
Ethical and moral dilemmas concerning Relationships, War, Fair Trade, Interfaith, Cloning, and other ‘Matters of Life and Death’ have been frequent items on the agenda.
The themes often cross curricular boundaries, not limited to Philosophy and Belief or Citizenship. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development forms the background. Presentation and debating skills are refined, both in the small group discussions, and during the final plenary with ‘Any Questions?’
Migration and Refugee Day at Wells Cathedral 10th October 2016
Wells Cathedral welcomed keynote speaker, Fahim Asefi, to share his traumatic experience of being an ordinary boy in Afghanistan, to becoming an Afghan refugee in Somerset.
‘a smile, a small act of kindness’ can make the difference
Fahim Asefi, Afghan Refugee and apprentice legal adviser (centre of photo)
The sixth form conference in the morning attracted 180 sixth formers from 5 different state and independent schools across a range of subjects from geography to health and social care. In the afternoon, the public event attracted approximately 150 people. Bishop Ruth Worsley welcomed the conference participants in the morning, and chaired the afternoon Question and Answer session.
Fahim Asefi spoke eloquently about his life as an ordinary boy growing up in Afghanistan. Then his world was turned upside down when his parents were killed due to their political beliefs. At the age of just 16 years old he was in grave danger as the people who killed his family were looking for him. In order to survive he had no choice but to try and flee his country in order to seek safety. After ‘the most horrible journey that is impossible to imagine’ he escaped from the back of a lorry and discovered he was in the UK.
Fahim moved and inspired the 16 year old sixth form students and public alike, as he spoke of his arrival in the UK ‘feeling like a two year old child who cannot speak the language, does not know the culture, the environment or anything’. He thanked the people who helped him to learn how to live here, learn to speak English, to go to school and contribute to the community. He expressed how important ‘a smile, a small act of kindness’ were to helping him start to rebuild his life after trauma. He is currently an apprentice legal adviser helping others in need, and plans to study at degree level.
(Photos l-r: Dr Jessica Hambly; Fahim Asefi and Bishop Ruth Worsley)
The other speakers at the event included Dr Jessica Hambly, Research Associate, University of Bristol Law School Migration Research Group. She described the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee and the legal process that people have to go through. An asylum-seeker is someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed. In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government. Research shows that approximately 20 per cent of asylum seekers gain refugee status. Most people are deported back to the country they fled from, kept in detention centres (often former prisons) or ‘go underground’ for fear of deportation.
Dr Orla Dunn, Consultant in Public Health, Somerset County Council spoke of her work resettling Syrian families in Somerset as part of the government resettlement scheme. She spoke of the amazing voluntary support that people in Taunton have offered. She also spoke of the various community initiatives across the county that are helping respond to the migrant crisis as well as assisting refugees and asylum seekers within the U.K.
Dan Doherty and Fiona Daborn from Christian Aid spoke about Christian Aids work in Greece and Serbia. They highlighted the ‘Change the Story Campaign’ that invites people to try and get some positive stories of welcome into the media.
(Photos l-r: Sixth-form students workshop activity; Fiona Daborn, Christian Aid)
Elinor Harris from British Red Cross reminded us to look beyond the label of a ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum seeker’ – people who are forced to flee their homes are mothers, brothers, doctors, students, builders – in other words ‘human beings’ and should be treated with dignity and respect.
Duncan Verwey, from Richard Huish Academy wrote about the event: ‘The students and staff alike found the event really interesting, beautifully run and in a magnificent setting. We would definitely be eager to participate in future events. The programme was great, speakers were highly interesting and so valuable! Having the chance to hear firsthand an experience of an individual seeking asylum was priceless, tear-jerking and academically fascinating.’
Many questions to the panel expressed the need for people in the Bath and Wells to lobby the government to accept more refugees and respond more quickly to the humanitarian crisis.
David Maggs from the Diocese of Bath and Wells and Wells Cathedral have produced a hand out that lists the local contacts and charities that are tackling these issues. Please contact [email protected] if you would like a copy.