Five-day festival at Stamford Welland Academy will encourage critical thinking

Launch of the Festival of Thought at Stamford Welland Academy'Photo: Lee Hellwing
Launch of the Festival of Thought at Stamford Welland Academy'Photo: Lee Hellwing
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Staff at Stamford Welland Academy have announced plans for a five-day festival based around the Holocaust to encourage children of all ages to think critically.

The school in Green Lane has linked up with the National Holocaust Centre and Museum to run the inaugural Festival of Thought, which will be held in school from June 27 and culminate in a community day on Saturday, June 30.

Plans for the festival were outlined at an event on Tuesday night, which was attended by representatives from other schools in the town and New College Stamford, as well as community organisations including the Rotary, Scouts, Stamford Town Council, churches and the Jewish community.

The festival will have five key themes - critical thinking, community, culture, creativity and curiosity, and events will include creative writing workshops, including publishing an anthology of pupils’ work, mindfulness workshops, debates and discussions, a sporting event, talks by Holocaust survivors and exhibitions.

Sarah Oliver, the school’s senior leader of community, and the deputy headteacher Sher Alam, told the audience on Tuesday that the festival would celebrate diversity, understanding and tolerance and promote respect, while placing Holocaust education into a global context.

Mrs Oliver said: “We really want to encourage a higher level of critical thinking. Thought is one of the greatest things we have to offer as human beings but it is also one of our biggest weaknesses.”

Mr Alam said he didn’t want children of any age to “fear” asking questions about difficult topics, adding: “We need to ensure that we are providing staff, teachers and students with the courage to talk about key aspects of history.

“How can we ensure our students leave our school as fully rounded individuals if they fear talking about certain things.”

He also said the festival was about encouraging teaching staff that it was OK to talk about difficult subjects.

“Following the Manchester atrocities, one of the key things I was asked is ‘Am I allowed to talk about this Mr Alam?’ We need to start the conversations.”

The festival is being backed by the National Holocaust Centre, which will be running workshops during the festival and Phil Lyons, the chief executive of the centre and his colleague Louise Stafford, the centre’s education programme manager, were at Tuesday’s event.

A visit to the centre, which attracts 32,000 visitors annually, by Mr Alam and Mrs Oliver prompted the festival and Mr Alam said his immediate reaction to the centre was: “Why have my pupils not seen this?”

Louise said the centre was “so excited about being part of this festival”.

The centre has recently launched an education programme where it brings its artefacts to schools, instead of school pupils visiting the Newark-based centre, and it is planning to do this with any primary schools that get involved.

Any groups interested in the festival should e-mail Sarah at: SOliver@stamfordwellandacademy.org before the end of the month.