The Archbishop of Canterbury launches Difference for Secondary Schools

Posted by Martin Kitara on February 6, 2024


New resource launched to support young people gain the tools and skills necessary to engage constructively and respectfully to grow welcoming school communities.

Last week on Thursday 1 February, the Archbishop of Canterbury launched Difference for Secondary Schools at the Church of England’s National Education Conference.

The free six-session course explores important themes including human flourishing, hope, respect and living well together. Students participating in this programme will gain the tools and skills to cross divides, navigate disagreement and grow welcoming school communities where all can flourish. 

Archbishop Justin Welby was joined by students from St Peter’s Collegiate Academy, Wolverhampton and St Peter’s Church of England School, Stoke, who quizzed him about why he had made reconciliation a priority, and what advice he would give people struggling to forgive friends and family.

Enabling people to deal with disagreements well

Responding, he said he had observed a society where people were losing the ability to disagree without hating each other. 

“If you follow that path on you end it in a catastrophe,” he said.  

“I grew up in a family that was bitterly divided with real problems. That gave me a deep sense that one of the best things we can do as Christians is not only to introduce people to Jesus but to enable people to deal with disagreement well. 

The students from St Peter’s Wolverhampton and St Peter’s Stoke were involved in piloting the Difference course. They were asked by Archbishop Justin if they felt other schools should run the course.  

Responding one student replied “Yes, I think people should take the difference course because it allows them to open up with more confidence by using the three habits be present, be curious and be imagine. 

 “As it went on, I opened up more. And just felt more confident.” 

Our society is complex and more intertwined

In his keynote speech at the National Conference, Archbishop Justin explained why the Difference for Schools course had been developed.  

“Our society is complex, ever more intertwined owing to social media and is struggling to grapple with differences and division in such a way that all can truly flourish.  

“Social media has connected us in ways we never imagined possible, but it also works to drive us ever further apart. 

“We know at the moment what it is to be trolled to be threatened. It happens in school communities. It happens in local communities, it happens at a national and a global level.” 

“We can become so immersed in echo chambers where we hear our own views affirmed, that other perspectives begin to feel frightening. 

Quoting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, he said: 

“Our world is becoming unhinged. Geopolitical tensions are rising. Global challenges are mounting, and we seem incapable of coming together to respond.’  

“In this context, the question of how society shapes those who are growing up, who are teenagers and children. How we educate could not be more urgent and more essential, more fundamental to our whole future.” 

Equipping and empower young people to deal with complexity, build relationships

Reconciliation is one of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s three personal priorities in his ministry. He has set a vision for the church to be a reconciling presence in the midst of conflict. As part of this, Archbishop Justin Welby brought together leading thinkers and peacemakers to create Difference.

Speaking last year at his Annual Reconciliation Address about the importance of equipping young people to be peacemakers and reconcilers, Archbishop Justin said: “It is a scandalous reality that all too many young people witness or experience violence and lack alternative models of dealing with conflict. Conflict can be as simple as being cancelled, to extreme domestic, civil or international violence.

“While we pray that future generations will inherit something better, this reality is what young people experience now. We need to equip and empower young people to deal with complexity, build relationships and cross divides with confidence and perseverance. We need to resource them as peacemakers. If we are to face the challenges of our times, we all – young and old alike – need to learn how to be people of reconciliation.”

Difference for Secondary Schools has been developed with the Church of England’s Education Office.

In spring 2024, Difference for Church Youth Groups will be launched. Keep an eye on the young people’s page for information.

Equipping leaders to run Difference in secondary schools

Difference for Secondary Schools is free to access and run. It can be used by both large and small school groups. Leaders facilitating the course can adapt and tailor Difference to their contexts and the specific needs of students.

Additional training is required before people can access the resource on the website. Sign up below for training.

Difference for Primary Schools

We’re developing Difference for Primary Schools to be launched in Spring 2025.

We’re inviting you to embark on a transformative journey with us as we introduce an innovative course rooted in the life of Christ and designed by visionary educators and expert peacemakers. The course is being crafted to empower both educators and pupils.

We’re holding a virtual introductory meeting on Tuesday 19 March 2024 from 4-5pm. This event will give you an insight into the programme and address any questions that you may have.

Register to attend the event, by signing up to receive updates from Difference on our website.

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