Our focus in secondary schools is to create Safe Spaces to explore the big issues of life and faith. We usually do this through drop-in lunchtime clubs, support with SMSC, PSCHE, RE, assemblies, facilitating focus days with specialist visitors (wellbeing sessions, bands, etc.) or other creative projects.
For many years our trust has existed to provide youth workers and volunteers to serve and support local schools. Over the years we’ve ran many projects to meet this goal in secondary schools, albeit early on only being known for working with Christian students in schools. Whilst always existing as a generously gifted project of local churches in Southport, our focus has broadened massively beyond this style of provision over the last 10 years.
We have extended our team, trained diligently, and worked with many national youth projects to research and find innovative ideas to serve the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) needs of all students – of all faiths and none.
Continuing to provide through COVID restrictions
Since March 2020, we have been learning to provide as best we can for the SMSC needs of Southport’s young people through online means. We have invested heavily into video content creation, have built a studio in Southport town centre and Tabz (our longest serving staff member) has developed further professional skills in video, website and graphic design.
Through this content creation and the platforms of YouTube and Instagram, we’ve been able to create community amongst many young people in Southport, and further afield, bringing plenty of encouragement around mental and emotional health and general wellbeing. We have conducted a survey with many local young people responding, which has highlighted how needed this has been (something we only expect to continue moving forwards).
Partnering with schools going forwards
From our own research and the research of others nationally, we expect the pastoral needs of secondary students to be huge over the coming months. We want to help support schools through this time, however we can. For example, Tabz, in particular, is a youth worker who many students will know as a familiar face from primary school. He has also recently completed his first 2 levels of counselling training. Hettie is a similarly gifted youth worker employed by us, with a focus on connecting pastorally through sport and physical activity. We also work and network with other youth workers locally, who have contributed heavily to our online provision. We want to offer our support in this arena however schools see fit.
Free video curricular content
From speaking with various secondary school staff, we expect it to be some time before restrictions lift in order for us to physically carry on our SMSC focussed projects in secondary schools. Eg. our clubs at lunchtimes. This is why we are repurposing our weekly uploads to YouTube to create videos tailored for use in year group bubbles, either as a resource for teachers in lessons, form time, or enrichment time.
We also have a series on our YouTube Channel called REAL TALK, where we have tackled the subjects of anxiety, depression, self-harm and loss. These included our own stories and experiences along with tips (the loss session included an interview with Child Bereavement UK.) We intend to create an addition to the series on the topic of cancer/illness. The next job on the list is to make each of these sessions into a more streamlined individual video for use in lessons, but here are our three so far:
Year 7 Worries
Contributing to school life
Stress Management and Prioritisation Techniques
Promoting our online channels
Where we would usually run a Safe Space at lunchtime in a school, we are asking that our online channels could please be promoted with posters or links shared digitally. We plan to run a live Safe Space on YouTube at 4pm from Tuesday to Friday each week. We hope that this will continue to build and strengthen a sense of community amongst local young people and we will make mention each day of the particular school(s) we would have ordinarily been visiting that lunchtime.
It goes without saying that our safeguarding policies are very well constructed and adhered to as ever. Our Trust’s safeguarding officer served as Safeguarding Lead for over 20 years in a local secondary school until her very recent retirement.
We hope with this investment of time, schools will be able to help us make sure our online work is made as widely available as possible. The following image should be useful for this: