STUDENT teachers learned about the importance of understanding different cultures and faiths when they visited Burnley and Pendle Faith Centre.

More than 50 religious education trainee teachers from Edge Hill University in Ormskirk plus their tutors visited the faith centre for a one day conference on social, religious and cultural diversity.

Led by the centre's community faith co-ordinator Terry Murnane, the conference was also attended by partners from Burnley Schools' Sixth Form, and Building Bridges Pendle.

The students were provided with some examples of the challenges and benefits of teaching in a multi-cultural society with input by Claire Willis, head of humanities at Burnley Schools' Sixth Form, whose student population is almost half Asian.

Claire highlighted the need to avoid simplistic stereotypes, with an emphasis on meeting students as individuals, irrespective of race, faith and culture.

Salim Jogi of Building Bridges Pendle looked at work being done in schools on challenging negative stereotypes and helping young people from different backgrounds to work through some of the issues they face in their communities.

His colleague Waqaus Ali concluded the conference with a presentation on identity and being a British Muslim in Britain today.

Edge Hill RE tutor Paul Smalley said: "Issues of diversity need to be challenged head on.

"The sort of dialogue we had is essential and gives new teachers a blueprint for what should be happening in their schools. Open, sensitive and constructive debate is essential for a healthy democracy."