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 in a wide range of areas, albeit early on we were mostly known for our 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.
Current work 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).
Free video curricular content!
From speaking with various secondary school staff during the pandemic, we know it has been difficult to predict when restrictions will 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.
These can all be accessed from our online catalogue completely FREE of charge. Our videos are arranged into many topics and categories and our site features a search engine to help teachers find exactly what they are after.
As part of this collection we have included a series 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.
Partnering with schools going forwards
Safe Space Lunchtime Drop-Ins
Over the last decade we have really worked hard on our ethos around lunchtime provision, and have arrived at the very popular model of the Safe Space Drop-In. We describe a “Safe Space” as a time or place set aside to journey with young people through issues of life & faith, whether they be spiritual, moral, social or cultural, in an environment that is very fun, non-threatening, and non-judgmental, giving young people safe time out to be loved & helped.
Our most proven way of achieving this is in secondary schools and FE colleges is through lunchtime clubs, run by trained and safeguarded SASW Trust staff and volunteers, all at no cost to the school or FE college. In one particular local secondary school, our Safe Space Lunchtime Drop-Ins had to be split by year group over different days of the week due to their popularity in regularly seeing attendance 3-figure attendance over a lunchtime!
To go down the simple route of a lunchtime club, all we’ll need is a room & a day! We’ll fill it with card/tabletop/board games, snacks, conversation, and a Three Minute Thought (TMT) together on a relevant topic of the week, of RE / PSHE / SMSC character. All funded and supported by the local churches of Southport (of all flavours and denominations – now including the Roman Catholic community), with links to their local youth groups and ministries.
For a lot of the schools we work in, lunchtime drop-ins tend to be the starting place for lots of our other projects across school life – whether that be RE, PSCHE workshops, or extra-curricular activities/events, etc. – it’s definitely worth a conversation, as we are keen to not only rebuild our Safe Spaces from pre-COVID, but also expand to as many schools as we can for the reasons below…
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, with all costs covered by our charity.
We are well know amongst primary schools for a number of different productions, workshops, lessons and assemblies that are all bookable via our website. Our aim over the coming months is also to develop this feature for secondary schools – so watch this space!
Previously we would always have made these sorts of arrangements on a more personal case-by-case basis, relying on existing relationships with school staff. Given this has led to visits that are much more tailored to the schools needs, we will always welcome a meeting with staff and gladly take onboard any requests!
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: