Dr Peter Vardy’s sixth form conferences for students of AS and A2 Religious Studies (Philosophy of Religion and Ethics) and A Level Philosophy have been a fixture for many schools since the 1990s. In 2010 Peter founded Candle Conferences to build on this tradition, providing quality events, training and resources for schools across the UK in a more difficult climate for our subject areas.
The vice-principal of Heythrop College of the University of London from 1999-2011, Peter really needs little introduction. He has a passion for engaging young people with the big questions that affect them and has done more than anybody else to inspire the resurgence in the popularity of studying RS and Philosophy. A lively and engaging speaker with the rare ability to keep a mixed audience’s attention for hours, Peter was been the main speaker at the largest A Level RS conferences in England and similar events around the world with Dialogue Education and then Richard Huish College before 2009. Since 2010 he has been working with in excess of 14,000 young people and thousands of teachers per year. Schools support his events for a reason!
Peter has also written some 16 books, many translated into multiple languages and used by RS departments from Indonesia to Poland. “Ethics Matters” with Charlotte Vardy was published in November 2012 and is the first in a new series aiming to take students deeper into the issues introduced at AS and A2. “God Matters” came out in November 2013; “Bible Matters” will be published in November 2015 and “Knowledge Matters” is in the pipeline. Other publications include ‘Kierkegaard’ (SPCK 2008), ‘The Puzzle of Sex’ (SCM 2009), ‘Good and Bad Religion’ (SCM 2010) as well as the ever-popular “Puzzle” books for HarperCollins, which still outsell almost everything else in their class over 20 years after publication. Arguing for God and Ethics Peter’s DVD teaching resources (designed to replace those Dialogue Education videos) are now available as well.
“If you don’t already use Candle Conferences – you must! Every conference I have attended, both with students and as CPD has been remarkable. Peter and Charlotte Vardy are exemplary in their communication and explanations. The conferences stick to the syllabus but are wide ranging so that students are learning and revising. The resources they create are professional and interesting; because Peter and Charlotte are both accomplished teachers their resources can be accessed by all abilities. Conferences, conference notes, books, DVDs – all will make your life easier and help the students to delve deeper into topics as well as enhancing basic understanding. They will also help you, the teacher, develop your own understanding and push you to challenge yourself and your students. My students are always enthused by the conferences and excited to meet Charlotte and Peter – who make themselves available to the students with charm and attention. I cannot recommend them enough…clearly!” Sally Smith, Head of Ethics, Aylesford School
Charlotte Vardy, Peter’s wife, is in charge of strategy, plans conference sessions, develops study notes and resources and oversees publicity; she is currently Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Ardingly College in Sussex. As well as being a popular and experienced lecturer (she presented at all our events until 2015 and internationally with Peter) Charlotte is an outstanding teacher and manager who started her career at Hampton School, was Head of RPE at Kingston Grammar School and Director of Studies at Heathfield School for three years before the birth of her two children. Following a degree in Theology from Oxford, a PGCE RS from Cambridge and MA in Philosophy and Religion from London, Charlotte worked part-time as a Tutor in Philosophy at the University of London from 2004 to 2011.
The Secretary of the Oxford Conference in Education 2010, over the years Charlotte has worked as a consultant and teacher-trainer for organisations such as Cambridge International Examinations, the Coexist Foundation, The Tony Blair Faith Foundation and CTVC (True Tube); she developed the entire student zone of The Tablet website in 2011. The author of “Life and Death Coursebook” for PushMe Press (July 2013) and co-author of “Ethics Matters” (November 2012) and “God Matters” (November 2013) and “Bible Matters” (forthcoming, November 2015) for SCM Press, Charlotte was also the educational advisor for the “Arguing for God” and “Ethics” DVD resources. In 2015 Charlotte worked with the Gipsy Hill Federation to develop the curriculum for their successful Free-School bid; the school will educate 1600 children and will open in 2017.
Sally Ann Roberts is our new Conference Manager, overseeing all bookings, answering calls and e-mails, planning and running “front of house” at all major events. Sally Ann was Head of Religious Studies at the Sir John Colfox School in Dorset until August 2o14. Before that she worked at the Holyrood School in Somerset and at schools in Hertfordshire following a degree and PGCE at Bath Spa University. Before “converting” to RS and teaching, Sally Ann worked as an adult trainer.
Georgia White often assists Sally Ann with front-of-house at major events. She has an MA in Global Ethics & Human Values from King’s College London, studied Philosophy and Theology at Heythrop and has worked for both CAFOD and the Catholic Education Service.
Katie Irwin was our Administrator from 2011 until 2014. She is now working for Rugby League Cares, putting her brilliant organisational abilities, charming manner… and her MA in Ethics from Heythrop College, University of London… to good use by raising money and spending it to look after injured and retired sportsmen and their families.
Other “front of house” assistants include Inge Haandsbæk Jensen, Tom Wood, Emily Perkins, Francesca Gosling, Louise Duke and Max Feldman, all of whom are recent graduates or postgraduates in Philosophy, Religion and/or Ethics from Heythrop or other colleges of the University of London.
Chris Moses was responsible for some administration in the early days. Having a starred first from Cambridge in Religious Studies and an MPhil in Middle Eastern Studies from Oxford, he is writing up his doctorate while starting work as the Research Associate in Modern Interfaith Relations at Cambridge University’s Interfaith Programme. His experience working with the Middle East Foundation in London, with think-tank Theos and with Islamica Magazine in Amman… not to mention with us (!?)… will surely come in handy!
Sarah Ramsey was responsible for some administration and ‘front of house’ organisation in 2010-11. She is currently working as a barrister, following her MPhil in Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford and her degree in History from Cambridge.
Candle Conferences is extremely grateful for the generosity and kindness of many teachers, who have given unstintingly of their time and expertise.