Hearing All Voices in London
Since 2011, Child to Child has been working with disadvantaged young people and staff in London secondary schools and FE colleges to create an environment where children and young people are listened to, taken seriously and supported to take social action and bring about positive change in their lives, their schools and the wider community. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation has now funded Hearing All Voices for a further three years to work in 12 more schools/colleges.
Project activities in partner schools fall into two categories: Hearing All Voices sessions and professional development for school staff.
Hearing All Voices sessions
School staff, with coaching and mentoring support from Child to Child, run 18 HAV sessions over two terms with students at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) and/or EAL (English as Additional Language) students.
Sessions follow Child to Child’s Step Approach, an action research process connecting what young people learn in the classroom with what is happening in their lives. Working through the steps enables them to identify how they might collectively bring about positive change in the school or community. Consequently sessions take place in and outside of the school.
Participants so far have chosen to focus on knife crime, bullying, safety on the streets and sexual health.
The project includes up to 9 hours professional development for staff. Professional development is participatory and facilitator-led where possible using a self-coaching approach. Peer observation and sharing of best practice is encouraged throughout. Staff are mentored and coached on an ongoing basis in professional learning sessions with facilitators after HAV sessions with students. Facilitators keep a reflective journal tracking their learning. Content for professional learning is drawn from the HAV professional development manual which includes material on:
- Working with young people – supporting meaningful participation using coaching techniques
- Language and literacy – developing reading, writing, listening and speaking skills
- Session planning including ideas for energisers and reflective activities
- Toolkit for implementing the Child to Child step cycle with ideas for activities to support each step
A hub for facilitators will be established in 2015. Trained Hearing All Voices facilitators will have the opportunity to participate in termly Hub meetings designed to create a community of practising Child to Child facilitators. The Hub will create a space for facilitators to reflect on their practice and work towards the promotion of more participatory, active learning environments within secondary schools and FE colleges that can effectively engage disadvantaged students.
Hearing All Voices activities contribute to key Ofsted criteria of raising student achievement, improving quality of teaching and behaviour of pupils and are a good fit with SMSC/PHSE/citizenship provision.
What have we achieved so far?
The project brings benefits for students and the school. Young people develop language skills (speaking, listening, literacy); learning skills (debating, developing consensus, numeracy); and life-skills (e.g. critical thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, communication) leading to more confident, active, engaged students with improved academic achievement and greater chances of employability. School staff develop confidence and the skills required to use coaching techniques to promote young people’s voice and meaningful participation.
External evaluations of Hearing All Voices showed that:
- Pupils’ engagement with school and community life increased.
- The process enhanced pupils’ life skills enabling them to negotiate and make decisions together, and become more independent learners who asked questions of each other rather than always relying on the facilitators.
- Children with initially very limited English skills were able to engage in and reach commendable levels of achievement in speaking and listening skills, collaboration and problem-solving.
- School staff embraced new ways of working and overcame their reticence around child participation and child-led activities.
- Staff awareness of the experiences of disadvantaged students and understanding of their needs improved.