Listening will help us rebuild after COVID

Monday 15 February 2021

We have already seen a row between the UK and the rest of Europe over vaccine supplies and it is likely there will be many more tests of relationships as we rebuild after the pandemic. Many schools have debating societies but at Gordonstoun we believe that dialogue offers students the most useful skills for life. Dialogue recognises the importance of listening and understanding an opponent’s view as a vital part of resolving conflict and tension. It is not about winning the argument, it is about reaching the best outcome for all. As a school, we want to teach these skills to as many young people as possible and therefore, in March, Gordonstoun will run its second Dialogue Symposium.

The Principal of Gordonstoun, Lisa Kerr said,

“We believe that dialogue and negotiation skills are a vital part of any education and we want to make sure that as many young people as possible can learn these skills. In recent weeks we have all seen the effects of poor negotiation – from seafood rotting in containers due to Brexit restrictions to a row with the EU over vaccine supply. We now have the difficult task of rebuilding after the pandemic and successful dialogue will be key to keeping the international community unified and focused in its response. These issues affect all our lives and if our young people can be more successful in the art of dialogue, the future will be in safe hands.”

Students from schools all over the UK are invited to the online event. Students from a wide range of schools took part in the last symposium in March, which received extensive media coverage.

Nicole S was one of the students who took part. She attended Samworth Church Academy which is located in Mansfield, an area ranked as the 25th most deprived in England. Looking back on the experience, Nicole said,

“It was an amazing opportunity with so much potential to do good in the world. It not only allowed me to expand my skillset but also my mind. Meeting people with such diverse backgrounds and pasts was remarkably interesting as diversity is not something we really have here in Mansfield. As a result, I found it quite useful to be able to talk to people who have experienced different lifestyles and cultures and it has given me a lot to think about.”

Teachers as well as students are invited to take part in the Dialogue Symposium and are taught how to become facilitators so that they can set up their own Dialogue societies and workshops in their own schools. Gordonstoun’s own Dialogue Society is now in its fifth year.