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Students get stuck into social action to support their communities

Westminster Kingsway students volunteering at the Calthorpe Project as part of the Inspiring Action programmeInspire! have been inspiring community action this term while helping young people gain critical skills for the future.

While research suggests that taking part in social action is an effective way of preparing for employment, those aged 16-24 are least likely to be involved. This is particularly the case for young people with additional needs, and those who are most at risk of being not in employment, education or training after school.

To address this, we invited 14 – 19 year olds from Westminster Kingsway College, BSix College and Leaways School to take part in the ‘Inspiring Action’ project.  Working in small groups, students identified an issue in their local community and planned a project to address it, with Inspire! there to support them along the way. By giving young people agency, the project aimed to increase independence and motivation, as well as employability skills such as leadership and teamwork.

The students showed great creativity and thought in their projects. A group from Leaways arranged a cooking session for the Hackney Winter Night Shelter and left some compassionate messages for their service users. Meanwhile, BSix College students arranged a clothing drive for local charity shop, Crisis in Hackney.

Two students from Westminster Kingsway made such an impression at their chosen project, The Calthorpe Centre, that they were invited to volunteer on a regular basis. The centre is an inner-city community gardens which aims to improve physical and emotional wellbeing for Camden residents. Zach (17) and Berwan (18) are both studying Creative Media and considering a career in film-making, but think volunteering was great preparation for the future:

We didn’t expect much from the programme in the beginning, but ended up enjoying it”, said Zach “The skills we learnt were social skills, practical skills and communication. It could help people in the future because you can put it on your CV and potentially get work from it if you keep on volunteering.”

“We are not that involved in our own communities but we think it is a good thing to do – it’s a good way to spend your time. You can also turn it into something valuable for the future and it can help you to gain skills.” said Berwan.

The centre was also grateful for the students’ enthusiasm and commitment as they helped the team clean and prepare the garden for replanting in Spring.

Lee Boyce, Assistant Head at specialist school Leaways, appreciated the difference the project made to her students: “Taking part in volunteering… was definitely the point it became a more real enterprise for them, and they surprised themselves. They were able to explain how it fits into their lives and how it will benefit in the immediate and long-term future. They also appreciated taking part in activities that their mainstream counterparts are experiencing.” 

On average, students reported a 15% increase in employability skills at the end of the programme, with the greatest improvements in communication and teamwork skills. 100% of teachers agreed that the programme improved their students’ confidence and was a useful chance to meet professionals. The project will continue next term and we hope to build on its success by running again next year.

Find out more about how we help young people with a range of needs to discover their strengths and thrive, or contact our Additional Needs team to discuss how we could support your students.