Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Young people discover Tagd at Valley Comprehensive School

Ruby has been volunteering for UNICEF UK for a few years, here she talks about a project she coordinated with students from a school in Worksop

At Valley Comprehensive School in Worksop a group of year 10 students completed a UNICEF UK project as part of their Diploma in Health, Society and Development.

The students worked hard to raise awareness of issues affecting the world’s children and to spread the word about Tagd, UNICEF UK’s youth website. As part of their diploma the students researched, planned and carried out some small events and the results have been fantastic.

Stephen Smith, the class teacher, said “the opportunity has been brilliant for the students; it’s been a chance for them to become truly engaged in their work and passionate about their studies whilst supporting a fantastic charity”. Not only has their work raised their awareness of UNICEF and issues that affect child rights all over the world, but it has raised awareness across the whole school.

Whilst keeping a video diary to record all their exciting work, the students planned a ‘Tagd Design’ competition and a Tagd outreach session. With the help of loads of stickers and flyers the outreach session really raised the profile of UNICEF with students and made it the top talking point in Valley School! Tagd was also a topic of discussion and thanks to the creative and imaginative minds of the school’s students some fantastic Tags were designed in the competition.
To handle Tagd’s new-found popularity in Valley School, the students held a Signing Up Session, where they set up a classroom and had their laptops ready and prepared to sign people up to Tagd - what a fantastic idea!

But the students didn’t want their work to be only about the fun and games of stickers and competitions; they wanted to make sure that the serious message of UNICEF’s work was heard loud and clear. To this end, they did two presentations for other classes about HIV and clean water which taught other students about the adversities faced by other children and young people across the world, the work UNICEF does to help these children and how the students can be involved through Tagd.

I have been volunteering for UNICEF UK for a few years and coordinated the group’s work. It was a great experience and I hope that this example inspires other students to initiate projects in their own schools and communities - it’s been a brilliant display of hard work, altruism and commitment”.

On another note, I have also set up a UNICEF fundraising group in Sheffield which I am keen for students to be involved with- please visit the groups Facebook page or email us at bethechange10@yahoo.co.uk.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

What the parties say about education

The Times last week showed pictures of Brown, Cameron and Clegg with children- whilst they spend plenty of time having their pictures taken with children, they seem to spend little time discussing policy which will directly effect children and young people. Talk of proportional representation, coalition governments and gossip about the party leaders has tended to dominate the headlines, leaving little space for the policies we want to hear about. So I’ve taken to the three main party’s websites to see what they’ve got to say about education…

I've noticed across the three main party's manifestos there are promises to restore discipline in schools,increase apprenticeships, raise standards, the list goes on. Whilst this all sounds grand, and I’m not questioning that need for these policies, there's a disappointing absence of any mention of children enjoying school. These points all centre on money and targets. My main concern as I've read through the manifestos is the seemingly inescapable focus on quantitative education, turning our children into figures, planning our countries future on numbers, not quality of life. But that's a discussion for another day!

Besides this, my primary interest was in the pledge made by the Liberal Democrats to provide free university eduction.....To make my mind up about how I feel about free university education I've decided to make a pro and con list- simple.


  • create a better educated country with better business prospects
  • increase the UK's reputation overseas as an educated nation
  • free students from financial worries
  • allow all people to feel financially able to pursue the career they wish creating a greater equality and decreasing the gap between rich and poor
  • less pressure on parents to be able to financially support their children through university

  • devaluing the degree
  • people aiming for jobs that now need degrees will soon require an MA
  • individuals who don't necessarily want to stay in education will do so to pass time
  • there will have to be cuts in other budget areas to cover the cost
  • it reinforces the concept that an academic classroom education is required to get a good job and negates the efforts made to give students alternative options to academia
Well, the pros and cons list didn't work too well as I came out with an equal number. Damn. So I've done some more thinking.

It's a wonderful idea in principle, but my main concern is that it would devalue degree standard education even further. Shouldn’t young people be willing to make an investment in their own future by taking the (available to all) student loan option? The student loan, if nothing else, encourages graduates to aim for higher jobs, whereas a free university education would not provide graduates with an incentive to find higher paid jobs, but it would force all those who are motivated to attain high levels of education and high skilled careers to continue into post graduate education.

I think that some of the points on my pros list aren't necessarily as positive as they initially seem; parents saving for their children, young people understanding finances and being willing to make a financial investment in their own life- surely these are positive things in many respects.
Which leads me to conclude that like so many other educational policies, free university education has also been driven by finance and targets rather than choice and quality of life for young people in the UK.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

“If it is about style and PR, count me out.” In his opening speech of the second of the Prime Ministerial debates, Gordon Brown hits the nail on the head. He alludes to a society which expects nothing less than airbrushed perfection. The media is dominated by slick reality TV, where contestants are revamped into clones of some perceived ideal. But Brown insists this election campaign is not about reality TV. It’s about reality. He implores us to lay aside those deeply instilled expectations we may have for contestants vying for our vote – whitened teeth, tanned skin, extended hair – and to judge on substance, not appearance. The cheek.

But he’s right, isn’t he? We are so conditioned to the reality TV format that we do genuinely seem to be confusing it with the seriousness of the debates. The surge in popularity for Clegg mirrors SuBo’s rise to popularity. Support for the underdog: this really is reality TV politics. Just like John Sergeant’s incredible run on Strictly Come Dancing, or Jedward’s unprecedented success in a supposed ‘singing’ competition, or the Rage Against The Machine Christmas number 1 - once again we are resisting any apparent arrogance in the contestants as well as demonstrating a preference for voting against the perceived authority of the Cowell-like moguls.

Had SuBo been a little more fashionably and socially aware, I dare say she would not have been such a success story. I am no music expert, but her voice can hardly be described as exquisite. And this is my point. It was not her voice – for which she is reputed – which propelled her to fame, but the patronising sympathy of a nation who, out of shame and embarrassment at its prejudice, swept from condescendingly sniggering at her to sycophantically buying her record.

Similarly, were Brown and Cameron a little more persuasive and likeable, it’s hard to believe Clegg would be so popular. Clegg, like SuBo and Jedward and Sergeant, all challenge the format, be it of reality TV or of politics, which is becoming stale, boring and repetitive. But in all cases, their success is not a testament to their individual talent or genius, but the result of an audience or electorate which is eager for a bit of intrigue and excitement.

I look forward to seeing if substance really does hold out over the appearance of something new and exciting.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Local Actions

It seems like time I kept everyone in touch with what I have been up to locally. Don’t Bake the Planet hasn’t been forgotten and as part of Earth day I let people know what I was up to and I am really keen to have more than a pretty but meaningless Facebook group, but I am only going to be able to focus on this after my exams.
However, so far I have let people know all about Copenhagen and how and why Climate Change threatens children’s rights- a crucial link to make- I have found it really rewarding going into schools, I got some of the cutest thank you letters ever! (left). I also created a display that I put up in church that let anyone everyone at church know about my experiences in Copenhagen. My cake sale and presentations of Earth day were a great success, even if more low key than I originally intended but GCSE revision has been a bit of pain (… you know how it is !).

For me, I hope this summer can be the time for real change in my local community as I will have the time to make a greater difference. I have been so inspired by my fellow CCF (Children’s Climate Forum) delegates, everytime I receive an e-mail from one of the other Copenhagen 4 or someone from the CAP (Climate Ambassador Programme) I feel inspired and enthused. From the rest of the Copenhagen 4, Katie’s work with the CAP Project and as a Link is brilliant- no one works harder, Luke with all his great work with the US delegation and his inspiring PHOTOsyntheseis project and Graeme with the Scottish youth parliament.
Lots of young people really care and really work hard to show that they do and if we all do small things, be it an assembly in school or a meeting with a local group, real change can become a reality. I only strive to make as much of a difference in my community as some of the truly remarkable people I was fortunate enough to meet through my part as one of the Copenhagen 4.