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 mainly as a support for 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.
Visits to schools + COVID support
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. Beyond COVID, this has added a very helpful tool to our programme. 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.
Bringing all this together we have developed a series of topics for secondary school students that we have created videos for on YouTube, which we can now also visit schools and deliver live in the form of assemblies / collective worship. Our team are available to deliver any of these sessions and can be booked directly from our website:
Free video curricular content:
All the videos created from our YouTube Channel are available for schools to use as an alternative to us visiting. Each assembly has a corresponding video that 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.
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). As we have been back visiting secondary schools, it has highlighted again and again how valuable this investment into Southport’s young people has been.
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, with all costs covered by our charity.
Safe Spaces in the Yard
Pre-pandemic we held a ‘Safe Space’ in a classroom or other indoor area in school. We would explore the big issues of life and faith with young people via one to one, small group and whole room conversations. Due to covid restrictions, we knew that as secondary schools started enquiring again we wouldn’t be able to run our usual lunch clubs across multiple year groups and that being indoors with young people wasn’t the safest option. We took time to think about what we could offer to schools that would really help young people at this difficult time.
We came up with the idea of running Safe Spaces outdoors, in the yard with a focus on mental health support and the pupils having someone to talk to. After being invited into one school to do some 1-1 mentoring and support with a survey to see how the students were doing after a year of pandemic, we posed the idea of outdoor Safe Spaces, which was met with a very enthusiastic ‘yes’!
We now run these in four different secondary schools every week (you can read our blog about how it all developed here).