Early on in my career at UFA (and that’s a while back now!) I remember our Founder, Sir Tim Brighouse, reminding us of an African proverb ‘It takes a whole village to educate a child’. This week with the latest Social Mobility Index (31/1/16) now available I have reflected back on that proverb when looking at the comparisons data.
This shows in some areas how hard it is for a child from a disadvantaged background to do well at school, get a good job and have a decent standard of living and that gap in social mobility is widening. We need to go beyond qualifications to close the gap and that is where the community can provide a rich space for learning.
We know that authentic learning is a key ingredient in deep learning, but creating real learning experiences that can also raise aspirations beyond a local area is as important if we are to help young people see possibilities that the future can hold.
When we developed UFA’s young people’s leadership programmes we felt strongly that not only should there be opportunities for them to learn from leading in schools, but also in their communities. In the last three years we have supported young people to put over 320,000 hours of social action in place, much more than we thought possible in such a short space of time. Each one of those hours was supported by a community partner or business that has shared their expertise, so that each young person walks away with a better sense of who they are and what they can achieve, as well as a wider perspective on their community and the world beyond it.
Our latest plans to develop a ‘centre for excellence’ around children and young people’s leadership are beginning to come together, with lots of early interest from schools and businesses, as well as the valuable input from our Youth Board, ‘YoUFA’. We want a space where leadership has a moral purpose and young people can experience what it’s like to lead from the front as well as push from the back and to understand that leadership is for all, not the few.
It’s that opportunity to gain mastery from leading in their schools for example as peer tutors, or as part of a team of trained young researchers and evaluators, to leading their own project in the community that they tells us is such a powerful learning experience. Community and volunteering opportunities providing real evidence of the skills they have achieved in areas where few other opportunities exist.
The recent evaluation report from Behaviour Insights Team evidences that ‘young people who take part in social action initiatives develop some of the most critical skills for employment and adulthood in the process and there are now 42% of young people nationally volunteering in their local communities. So perhaps we are now starting to see some very positive outcomes to back up Tim’s African proverb.