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The power of youth social action

Carl Ward, Executive Headteacher at Haywood Academy, explains why they are embedding social action into their school's culture

Posted by Lucinda Reid | December 14, 2016 | Events

We recently joined in with #iwillWeek to celebrate the impact that young people can have in their communities, and the boost that getting involved can give to their social mobility. We held an event here at Haywood Academy as youth social action lies at the core of our school’s ethos and timetable. We feel it’s very important that we recognise the power of educational facilities to transform communities, a sentiment that was reiterated in a video message we received directly from Education Minister Ed Timpson.

Our event during #iwillWeek brought together education and community leaders to hear from young people and stakeholders about our support for youth social action and the benefits it brings.

Youth social action, by which we mean young people taking part in activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering, creates a double benefit for both the communities that are supported and those young people taking part.

Research shows that the benefits to young people participating in social action include improved attitudes about learning, a boost to empathy, and increase in their determination to succeed and continued development of vital inter-personal and organisational skills. This positively impacts social mobility, as well as employability and wellbeing.

Employers are increasingly looking for development of these skills when recruiting. They say qualifications only make up part of the story, and many employers are now embedding social action into their recruitment practices. At Haywood Academy, we prioritise getting our young people ready for meaningful employment. We set up a steering group with six local employers and employed two careers advisors to create a work-based learning programme that develops the skills students need by the time they leave at 18. We have embedded this within the curriculum and youth social action now lies at the core of our school’s ethos and timetable.

The work-based learning students in sixth form do two days a week
in class and three days a week
in a local business. They come out with experience but, crucially, they also get qualifications. Employers come in to deliver lessons on employability and those not on the programme have Wednesday afternoons allocated to volunteering. We know that the earlier you start the better, so we run inset courses with the fire brigade and the police cadets and students volunteer three evenings a week. This runs as a two-year course that culminates in a BTEC qualification. We are proud that Haywood now runs the biggest post-16 volunteer programme in partnership with business than any other secondary school in the UK.

We celebrate involvement through in-class conversations as well as assemblies and certificates. The end of each half term sees an award ceremony commending achievements through academic, vocational and work-based learning. We
also hold a whole academy trust award ceremony that gives specific awards for volunteering and that we hope will inspire the younger children.

Our profile in the local community is strong. Rather than provide in-house catering, sixth form students are encouraged to support nearby businesses, which is revitalising the local economy. We have transformed a local town hall into a work-based learning programme hub. It is very important that we recognise the power of educational facilities to transform communities and revitalise town centres; it’s easy once you get the ball rolling.

I urge you to also consider how you can get involved, by making a pledge to the #iwill campaign at to embed social action into your Academy’s culture.

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