National Student Voice
With a student force to take the council to new and greater heights!
In June 2019, the newly appointed National Student Voice Council came together to meet for the first time on a residential visit to OAT’s head office in Birmingham. This was their chance to meet as a team for the first time, as the nine students were from across England. During their meeting, they had the opportunity to allocate roles, including Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Equalities Officer and Regional Representatives.
An important aspect to their meeting was to decide on what direction they would take their group #iwill project. The students had prepared individual presentations, to give their ideas for a social action project, that could be projected across the Trust. They soon determined that all of their ideas were linked, with themes of mental health and the detriment of stigma on someone’s wellbeing.
Knowing their job was to represent OAT students and give each and every one of them a voice, they all consented, that they wanted to support their peers by providing worthwhile information. Their first problem was, how would they get their information across to all OAT students, from the most southerly point of the Isle of Wight, right up to Grimsby in the North. They solved this by deciding to produce a website that would be designed by themselves, so their fellow students could access the relevant information around gaining support for mental health issues.
They first set about contacting charities and services, with a request they could be featured on their website. Wanting to provide these external links, they believed was vitally important, to provide different avenues for their peers to gain the support they may need.
Knowing they were the voice for OAT students, they wanted to show a personal aspect to the project, and so did this by writing blogs around their theme of mental health, relevant issues that affect students in England and ongoing worldwide topics. They spent time researching, gathering data and expressing their own opinions to help detail their publications. Currently, they have approached subjects, such as exam stress, resolutions, toxic relationships, the origin of PRIDE celebrations, Black Lives Matter, Covid19 and students’ perspective of the national lockdown. Their ideas to produce more blogs is becoming unstoppable, showing their passion to speak up on important issues or current affairs that are affecting young people.
Going back to their original aim to give their peers a voice, they wanted other students to have the opportunity to feature on their website. They launched a blog competition on World Mental Health Day, advertising to students, to think about issues they found important. They provide themes, such as looking into different cultures or religions, that one or many may experience stigma. Ultimately, they want their fellow peers to not only consider their communities but also think about their regional and national communities.
The students have worked effortlessly from the first day the council was formed and even managed to complete their thought-provoking project, only meeting a couple of times face to face, with the majority of their vital work conducted over video calls. They have shown brilliant resilience throughout and still strived to a positive approach when Covid-19 cancelled so many of their planned events. And even though they have not been able to promote the launch of their website, quite the way they wanted to, it has been met with support and amazing engagement.
Opening a School Community Library
Staff and students at Ormiston Park Academy excitedly celebrated the opening of their new #iwill library. The event was attended by CEO of the Ormiston Academies Trust, Nick Hudson, Park’s new Principal, Mark Roessler and the school’s student librarians.
Back in 2018, when the #iwill campaign was first introduced to the academy, the student steering team had to design a whole project that would create a legacy for Park’s community. With no official library in the academy, the team decided to take over an unassigned room to transform into a librarian’s dream.
The #iwill student steering team set about fundraising to buy the books that would start filling their new bookshelves. They approached their local community for donations, as well as receiving donations from national companies, Book Trust and WHSmith. Ormiston Academies Trust head office even got involved, by running a book drive and encouraging staff to donate books that were gathering dust in their homes.
After a long 18 months of planning, designing and a small pandemic getting in the way, they finally reached the day of opening. Speaking at the event, one of the #iwill student team, Tomi Olowookere said,
“The campaign has helped unlock our potential and has given us the opportunity to do something really special for the school and our community.”
The new library features 1,500 new books, as well as donations, a brand spanking new suite of technology, and comfortable, innovative reading spaces for the students to enjoy. The library is the cornerstone of Ormiston Park Academy’s drive to improve student reading and literacy. As well as helping their local community, to counteract the closing of local libraries, by encouraging a parent/carer and community book clubs.
Over the national lockdown, the academy’s Reading Lead, Sabine Scott, delivered hundreds of books to the local students. This ensuring the care for student’s literacy was in place, while the academy was shut to the majority of their students. More recently, at the start of this academic year, all Year 7 students were given a new book to better embed a love of reading, from their very first day at Park. Moving on, year 8 and 9 students are currently enjoying a book from the new library, with the older students receiving a book later this month.
Before the formal opening of the library of cutting the ceremonial ribbon, Director of English at Ormiston Park and #iwill lead, Rhys Shercliff, said,
“Discovering a good book is a magical, sometimes life-changing moment– the more books we have and the more students who have access to those books, the more chance we have of making that moment happen.”
Now they plan to open their library out to the local community and organise group events. Covid-19 has currently put a pin in their plans, but once it is safe to do so, mother-baby groups, local primary schools, book clubs and other local groups, will be able to enjoy the space and immerse themselves in a good book.
Chadwick has a Tree-mendous effect on their environment!
Ormiston Chadwick Academy has been taking part in the #iwill campaign, encouraging their students to take the lead in social action and pay special attention to the impact their academy and wider communities are having on their environment.
At the start of the campaign, they decided to address ecological issues through their #iwill project and aimed to make a positive and lasting impact. Investigating the effect their school was having on their surrounding environment, they found that the use of paper was most concerning. Calculating how much paper was used and wasted over the previous five years, they set their target of replenishing by replanting.
Chadwick’s #iwill team spent time researching and worked out they needed to plant a significant number of trees to achieve their objective, 250 to be exact! Tutor of Beauty and #iwill lead, Sarah Martindale approached the Woodland Trust enquiring if they could make a small donation towards their ambitious project. Hearing about Chadwick’s target, the Woodland Trust was inspired, not just to make a small donation, but to provide them with everything they needed to grow the project.
The #iwill students involved knew it was important that everyone in their school should know about the project, understand why they were planting a vast number of trees and educate them on important ecological issues. In February, the students planned and presented assemblies to each year group. And with the saplings to be delivered early March, two planting dates were set towards the end of the month.
However, with the onset of Covid-19 and school closures imminent, plans had to be quickly revised. With the saplings delivered as planned, Ms Martindale was conscious of two particular issues. The student’s disappointment at not being able to take part in the planting stage and with no date set for schools to reopen, the saplings were sure to perish if they had to delay.
With only a few days until the Government closure of schools the #iwill team took a day off timetable to attempt to complete the humongous task. Ms Martindale commented,
“The principal was completely behind us continuing with our social action and I was determined to show the world that we can still unite and do our bit to save our ever-changing planet.”
Graced with good weather the team of students and staff successfully planted 150 of their 250 trees in three hours. Keeping in mind the advice they received from the Woodland Trust, they set about using the skills they’d learnt. They mapped out the site and identified the areas to plant the different types of trees, and which areas to avoid. The whole team worked enthusiastically and in Ms Martindale’s words, “they smashed it!”
Across the UK students and school staff were instructed to ‘home school’ and follow the Government’s rule of social distancing. Chadwick’s #iwill students could be assured they would return to 150 flourishing saplings. However, Ms Martindale was aware of the other 100 saplings in storage, that were bound to perish without some quick thinking.
Not wanting that fate, Ms Martindale and her helpful husband came to the saplings’ rescue. The green-fingered pair ventured back into Chadwick and spent a final day planting, in their own time. This not only shows the dedication of the students but also how important social action has become to OAT staff. Truly inspirational!
The students and staff have found their project to be extremely rewarding and motivating. At this time, Covid-19 has suspended #iwill projects and has changed the way our schools operate. Nevertheless, this pandemic will not change the positive impact Chadwick has made on the environment and the legacy they have planted.
‘Green Fingers’ for #iwill and their communities
Students at Ormiston Horizon Academy had the opportunity to visit a local community food initiative that strives to link together schools, businesses and local people by helping them to learn about growing, eating and cooking fruit and vegetables.
Root ‘n’ Fruit is a community allotment in Stoke-on-Trent, where Horizon students were able to develop their green-fingered skills, ready for the opening of the academy garden through the #iwill campaign.
Miss Jukes expressed how enthusiastic the #iwill students were,
“Some students tried a variety of new vegetables and herbs which they had never eaten before. Others took home newly planted seeds which they will look after until our garden school is up and running”.
Students were taught on the different growth cycles of plants and vegetables, as well as nutrition and sustainability. Jacob, #will student ambassador for the academy, commented,
“Root ‘n’ Fruit was a fun and intriguing event that informed us about the correct ways to grow and maintain plants. However, it also encouraged us to be eco-friendlier by recycling. Not only was this good for the planet, but it was also healthier for the plants.”
Horizon’s next step was to create a kitchen garden for the whole academy to utilise. #iwill leads secured an area on the school ground and an old shipping container to use as an outdoor classroom and a place to hold all the gardening equipment. They were all raring to go when the national lockdown came into place.
Not wanting their hard work to become ‘overgrown’, the #iwill leads set to work. On the days they were stationed at the academy, they used their time to carry on preparing the area. They even enlisted the remaining key worker students to help clear the ground, prepare the soil and in the hard task of painting. With their passion and drive, they were able to have the area complete, ready to go in September for the new academic year.
They are now in the process of preparing to launch their ‘Garden School’, where students will use their prior knowledge of planting, to grow vegetables. They will use the harvests in their school kitchen and donate to local food banks around Stoke-on-Trent. The area will also incorporate a sensory garden, for staff and students alike to unwind.
Now they are recruiting the new cohort of year 7 students to become inspired and to join the #iwill movement in their academy. And Covid-19 may have had a negative aspect on many points in their project over recent months, but it opened up the eyes of the key worker students, that were never involved before. In those months of lockdown, they not only helped to keep the progression of the kitchen garden going but they also now want to join the team, to continue their meaningful work.
Unity in the Community
When the #iwill campaign was first introduced to Ormiston Ilkeston Academy, the student steering group made a passionate vote to put their attention to their wider communities.
Many students in the academy professed not to be proud of their community, that had struggled with anti-social behaviour, crime, and poverty. They wanted to change their outlook and their communities, to become more unified and responsible for one another. They also wanted to grow the links from the youth in their community to the elderly, to improve trust and respect.
Their first step was to approach external parties that could support the positive change they want to make for their local area. They approached the charity P3, who work with people that are excluded and vulnerable, to unlock their potential and open up new possibilities. As well as the Royal British Legion, as a way into work with elderly residents in the community.
With support behind them, they set about organising community days and community ‘get-togethers’. One of their events, even made the local press, because of the success and positive feedback they received. The students planned, promoted, designed, and delivered an event that was enjoyed by all. In attendance, were members of the Ilkeston branch of the Royal British Legion, along with care home resident and people supported by P3.
They were all treated with entertainment laid on by the students, along with a buffet, bingo and a quiz. Teacher and #iwill lead, Georgie Hill said,
“We all just want to give back to people in need or who may be alone, so many students want to be involved, it’s so inspiring to be around children who want to make a difference.”
Brain Brown, 83, a member of the Ilkeston branch of the Royal British Legion, said,
“Miss Hill came along to one of our branch meetings and told us that they were having a bit of a get-together at the school. Eight of us came along and we’ve really enjoyed it. I’m very impressed with the students. It’s nice for the school to have a link with the Royal British Legion and I know that some of the students are now affiliated with the branch and have become junior members.”
With Covid-19 and social distancing rules, the students understand that they have to rework their plans to work with their communities, especially the elderly. However, they have already started to make plans to organise a car park performance at local care homes. They will also continue to carry on with the already established local litter picks, but to work in bubbles, to not only keep themselves safe but their whole Ilkeston community safe.