Liverpool's class act

By Jonathan Kalmus, November 17, 2011

Liverpool has hosted what is believed to be the first conference of a British university using a synagogue to train teachers in handling controversial religious issues.

The 48 trainee teachers from across the north west, who are studying for their PGCE at Liverpool Hope University, used Childwall Synagogue as a venue for part of a day conference. Trainee teachers observed pupils from five non-Jewish schools who were asked to confront religious identity issues at the synagogue.

The conference collaborated with the Religious Education Council, which specialises in a Government recognised project to boost RE teacher's ability to handle religious contention.

Childwall Synagogue's Avril Lewis, who co-ordinated the synagogue sessions, spoke on antisemitic abuse, attacks and marginalisation.

Conference organiser Joy Schmack, a senior lecturer in religious education at Liverpool Hope, said many of the teachers "had never been into a synagogue. Because Liverpool Hope trains teachers we want them to have the means to discuss contentious issues and challenge stereotypes."

Many of the teachers had never been in a synagogue

Joyce Miller, REC vice-chair, said the conference would become a model to be taken nationally. "This is the first time our project has done anything like this at a university. It was very unusual to have teacher training and a conference of pupils at the same time, we are hoping to have the same model replicated around the country."

Last updated: 2:35pm, November 17 2011