“I’ve got an opinion!”
This was the refrain from the floor as well as the panel at the Bishop Creighton Academy – Peterborough Cathedral ‘Question Time’ event held in Peterborough last week last week. Around 30 students from Bishop Creighton Academy filed into the Bishop’s Palace in Peterborough Cathedral to quiz faith leaders from the city about the role of their institutions in a diverse 21st century city. The event was the culmination of a year of work that school teachers, the school council, and the Cathedral have developed in partnership under the banner of the Peterborough Curriculum.
Students, senior clergy including the Bishop of Peterborough, and members of the Peterborough Inter-faith Council, sat on the panel, while pupils asked questions from the floor.
The project had multiple aims for the school:
- to allow students to learn about the role of the Cathedral through the ages, incorporating history, geography and other subjects into the project;
- to encourage students to reflect on the role of other faith institutions;
- to project the Cathedral as a place for students and their families of all faith backgrounds to visit, to learn and to feel at home in;
- and to develop critical, questioning and debating skills in the students.
Sometimes, however, it is the simplest and most unexpected things that come out of projects like these, that are the most powerful.
When the Bishop of Peterborough explained to the children that their school was named after a former Bishop who had lived in this very building – heads whizzed around to stare at the painting of the eminent Bishop Creighton on the wall. The children were palpably surprised and excited that their own school shared a name with this eminent individual on the wall.
And it was this connection between the Cathedral and its geographically closest primary school that has been reignited by the Peterborough Curriculum work. Last year, when the school was flooded during a heavy downpour, the partnership that had been developed around curriculum design meant that teachers could pick up the phone to the Cathedral Education Officer: and the entire school decamped to the Cathedral for the rest of the day.
The curriculum work and learning that students are doing through the school’s partnership with the Cathedral is yet to be evaluated. But the relationship between students and their locality; between their own identity and that of the city in which they are growing up; and between the school and the Cathedral are already profoundly different.
The Cathedral, our other partners, the schools with whom we work and others in the city are now debating how to spread and embed the idea of educational partnership throughout Peterborough. Watch this space!