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Sixth Form Residential in Birmingham: November 2021.

As our students get older, they’ll meet a wider range of people from diverse cultures-- not just from around the world, but sometimes within our own town or country! While Pembrokeshire is a beautiful and tolerant county to live, study and work, it is not the most diverse region in the UK. Some of our sixth formers haven’t met many people whose backgrounds are very different from their own and it can be difficult to know how to respectfully engage with people of other faiths and cultures. To address this, we have had enrichment, citizenship and community organising lessons at Castle School Sixth Form Centre. However, it was time to put the theory into practice and so we decided to take a trip and spend a weekend in one of Europe’s most diverse cities: Birmingham!



Our weekend began with visiting the University of Birmingham, a Russell Group university with a rich history and, according to former Alumna of the Year (Ms Madni), ‘the best university in the whole wide world!’ A bold claim, but our sixth formers were certainly impressed with the beautiful campus and the array of courses and opportunities that the university provides for its students.


After a tour of the campus and the inspirational talks and advice from the student ambassadors, our pupils had a better understanding of university life, and we hope to visit more universities to prepare them for a world outside of our amazing Sixth Form centre.






In the evening we were warmly welcomed at the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, otherwise known as the Soho Road Gurudwara in Handsworth. We were given a tour of this beautiful and majestic place of worship. We witnessed the reading of the holy scriptures and heard wonderful stories of how the Gurudwara was built...it certainly was a community effort! The Sikhs have helped to regenerate much of this area of Birmingham and their work with other communities is truly commendable. Our group was invited to partake in the langar, a community kitchen that serves meals to everyone, regardless of faith and free of charge. We were served a beautiful meal and we are thankful to all staff and volunteers at Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and the Nishkam Civic Association for their hospitality during our visit. We absolutely loved the entire experience, especially meeting with the Chairman and Spiritual Leader, Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh Ji.





After the lovely langar meal, we bid farewell to the Gurudwara and went to the city centre to experience the festive Frankfurt Christmas Markets near the Bullring Shopping Centre. It was lovely to see the merriment and joy on our pupils faces while navigating through the markets. We ended the evening by going to Small Heath, another area in Birmingham known for its ethnic diversity and delicious food from all corners of the world. It had been a long day, but it was a wonderful introduction to faith, culture and higher education! It was time to head to our beautiful hotel, the Warwickshire Park Hotel, where staff had gone over and beyond to ensure we had a very comfortable stay.




We had an early start on Saturday and our first visit was to Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre. Established in the 1970s, the mosque occupies a prominent corner site in Green Lane, Small Heath. This is a beautiful grade II listed building that was originally constructed as a public library and baths. We were given a tour of the mosque and community centre and saw the amazing work that the mosque was doing with the local community as well as helping global communities in need. We listened to the melodious call to prayer and witnessed the afternoon Zuhr prayer service. We were incredibly grateful and deeply touched by the warm hospitality shown to us by all at Green Lane Masjid.




Our next and final visit to a faith institution during this trip was to Birmingham Buddhist Vihara and the Dhamma Talaka Peace Pagoda in Ladywood. Built in 1998, the Pagoda was planned by the renowned scholar and meditation teacher, Aggamahapandita Rewata Dhamma to enshrine the Buddha relics of the former Burmese royal family. It is a rare example of Eastern architecture in the city and the state of serenity it engenders, attracts many people from all faiths and all walks of life. We are indebted to John Beard for organising this visit and to Dr Maung M Kyi for hosting us.






Our cultural immersion had not ended with our visits to the wonderful places of worship. It was now time to experience Eastern cuisine at the Ziryab Executive Buffet in Saltley. Named after the eighth century polymath, Abu L-Hasan Ali ibn Nafi (also known simply as, ‘Ziryab’), this multi cuisine restaurant had it all: charming ambience, mouth-watering dishes and luxurious settings. Of course, the company of the sixth formers was the greatest treat!


On Sunday morning we checked out of our hotel and headed to the Central Business District for some Geography work for the geographers who completed some research for their project on regeneration of inner-city Birmingham. Of course, no trip to Birmingham is complete without a spot of shopping at the Bullring and Grand Central malls!





We had a fantastic trip and look forward to building on the partnerships created in Birmingham with the places of worship and community centres and hope to visit other cultural and faith sites during our next visit. This residential was a great success for both the students and Castle School Sixth Form. To offer such a rich diversity of experiences for the students in just a couple of days is something they will treasure for a long time. We were extremely proud of how well they conducted themselves, especially during the Q&A sessions at every place of worship. As teachers, to see your students use what they have learned in the classroom and put that into practice is quite an achievement!


It has been a busy but very successful first term at our new Sixth Form Centre. We started the academic year with a team building residential in Lawrenny and have ended 2021 with the residential in Birmingham. We are immersed in the festive spirit during these last few days of this term with the Sixth Form Christmas ball taking place tonight and the Christmas lunch (cooked and served by our Sixth Formers) on Friday 10th December. We will start back at school in the New Year on Wednesday 5th January 2022 when we will continue with providing the best learning experiences for our students. More exciting things are in the pipeline so keep an eye out for new blogs and Facebook and Instagram posts!


Being a Sixth Former is the most exciting and dynamic period in a secondary education. There are boundless opportunities at Castle School Sixth Form and students can truly carve out a bespoke academic and social niche here. If you would like to find out more, please contact the school on 01437 558010 or email learn@castleschoolpembrokeshire.co.uk. You can also follow our Facebook and Instagram pages here:

https://www.facebook.com/pembsalevels/

https://www.instagram.com/castleschoolsixthform/


From all at Castle School Sixth Form, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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