Faith in schools, open access and language teaching through football to be debated at the Festival. 

Does religious education have any relevance or value in British schools today? Is football a good vehicle for teaching languages? Can society afford open access to research?

These current issues in education form part of this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which runs from Monday 19 October until Sunday 1 November.

In the lead-up to the Festival on 17th October, the MML Annual Lecture: Learning languages - the premier league will see British Academy Fellow Bernadette Holmes and Steve Eadon of Arsenal Double Club talk about their work with schools in North London, bringing together two powerful forces for change, football and languages. They will share the successes and challenges of the programme and illustrate how language learning through football can teach more than how to pass the ball and how to argue against an unfair offside decision in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

They said: “We hope to inspire you, that by learning the universal rules of fair play in football and seeing life from a different cultural perspective through language learning, we can change attitudes and behaviour and open hearts and minds to the possibility of a better and more cohesive society.”

The project is gaining momentum and Arsenal is now running similar language learning clubs around the country and other football clubs are following suit.

On 21st October, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association; Adam Dinham, Professor of Faith and Public Policy, Goldsmiths, University of London; and Farid Panjwani, Director of the Centre for Research and Evaluation in Muslim Education, will explore the relevance of religious education in British schools during the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Anniversary Debate on ‘The way we live now’ Faith and education: an uneasy partnership. The debate asks whether the inclusion of religion in curricula and the funding or even existence of faith schools are more likely to foster inter-religious understanding and contribute to an inclusive society or to encourage division and to undermine the goals of education. This event is Chaired by BBC documentary maker Catrin Nye.

A YouGov survey of 2,198 adults* published in the lead-up to the event shows 45% of adults believe religion should be a compulsory part of the school curriculum, with younger people more likely to believe it should be compulsory. Three quarters of those surveyed think that Christian faith schools should be allowed in the UK, compared to less than half for Islamic faith schools.

In Can society afford open access? on 23rd October a panel of experts will discuss the risks and advantages of open access researching. Speakers include Jonathan Gray from the Open Knowledge Foundation; Dr Daniel Allington, Digital Cultures, University of the West of England; Professor Peter Mandler, President of the Royal Historical Society; Dr Theodora Bloom, Executive Editor of the BMJ; and Dr Danny Kingsley, Head of Scholarly Communications at Cambridge University. The event will be chaired by Professor Stephen Curry, Structural Biology at Imperial College. It is run in partnership with the Office of Scholarly Communications based at the University Library and Cambridge University Press.

Also taking place is the WOW Lecture #Upforschool - a discussion of the campaign to ensure all out-of-school children gain the right to education and future action in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals post-2015. With Professor Pauline Rose, University of Cambridge,Dr Nidhi Singal, REAL Centre, and Philippa Lei, Malala Fund.

Established in 2008, Cambridge Festival of Ideas aims to fuel the public’s interest in arts, humanities and social sciences. The events, ranging from talks, debates and film screenings to exhibitions and comedy nights, are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge. Of the over 250 events at the Festival, most are free.

Speakers include some of the world’s leading thinkers in their fields, including the astronomer Lord Martin Rees; John Macnicol, one of Europe’s leading academic analysts of old age and ageing; philosopher Professor Rae Langton; Professor Christopher Andrew, the Official Historian of MI5; Russian historian Professor Dominic Lieven; and Classics Professor Paul Cartledge. Other speakers include writer and journalist Peter Hitchens; author Bidisha; BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt; CEO of Index on Censorship Jodie Ginsberg; and Professor Alan Sked, Founder and former member of UKIP and now one of its fiercest critics.

The Festival sponsors and partners are Cambridge University Press, St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, RAND Europe, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Cambridge Live, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Arts Council England, Cambridge Junction, British Science Association, Heritage Lottery Fund, Heffers, WOW Festival, Southbank Centre, Collusion, TTP Group, Goethe Institut, Index on Censorship and BBC Cambridgeshire.

This year, Cambridge Festival of Ideas are conducting a range of speaker spotlights (Q&A interviews) with a range of high-profile speakers, including Rev Christina Beardsley, Professor David Runciman, Perter Hitchens, and many more. These are uploaded

Further information can also be found at:


Twitter: @camideasfest   #cfi2015

Notes to editors

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2198 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 15th September 2015.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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