Wednesday, 08 March 2017
Pupils from Westhoughton High School joined Boys’ and Girls’ Division students for an afternoon conference focused on community action. The aim of this event was to discuss the positives of volunteering, how best to create an environment where engagement with the local community is a part of school life, and how these values continue into adulthood to create civic-minded citizens.
Boys’ Division Headmaster Philip Britton welcomed delegates and introduced the afternoon’s guest speakers: entrepreneur and philanthropist Sufyan Ismail, Dr Iain Britton, the Head of the Centre for Citizens in Policing at the University of Northampton, and Paul Rankin, the Assistant Director of Bolton Council Children’s Services with responsibility for youth services. Mr Britton noted that many of the pupils in attendance were already involved in Community Action, but expressed the hope that the event would allow discussion of how schools and even the local authority could provide further support to pupils and create more opportunities for volunteering in the future.
Sufyan Ismail then opened the conference with a case study based on his own experience of moving from high finance to voluntary work. Since graduating from the University of Manchester, Sufyan has built numerous businesses specialising in financial services, private equity and real estate, which have in turn won varied awards. However, in 2014, he formally retired from full-time business to focus on more time on philanthropic work, engaging with the community and helping the elderly. As well as describing his personal journey and the importance of volunteering to him, he offered pupils five lessons that he has learned over the course of his life and career.
Delegates then split into smaller groups and moved through a series of three discussions based on individual volunteering stories. Bolton School pupils shared their personal experiences of volunteering at the Hospice, working with young people in schools, and experiencing NCS (National Citizen Service) as a starting point for conversation. Following presentations from pupils about their involvement with community action, all of the delegates were encouraged to share their stories and ask one another questions as well as talking about what volunteering means to them.
Dr Iain Britton gave the next presentation, which was about how police forces use special constables: a form of adult volunteers. Iain has studied Special Constables and Police Support Volunteers in many UK forces, and also undertaken national and international research work. His talk also discussed why adults volunteer and their impact in the police force.
Finally, delegates were invited to join Paul Rankin from Bolton Council for a round-table discussion on how best to support and facilitate the growth of the habit of community action in schools. Paul gave delegates an overview of Bolton Vision, which is the council’s planned approach to providing all the services needed in the local area. Pupils were invited to share their views and ideas, to be fed back into the Bolton Vision process.
The conference continued later in the afternoon with sessions tailored towards the wider educational issue of partnerships between independent and state schools, with a sharp focus on ‘Measuring what matters – evaluating the impact of school partnerships’. This formed the second national Schools Together meeting, and the first to be held in the north of England.
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