The Education and Leadership Trust (ELT) is a co-operative multi-academy trust with a diverse and global student population in Manchester. At the heart of our curriculum is the intention to grow young people’s sense of belonging to our city – to value their identity as young Mancunians, as well as their family background and culture.
In our schools, we incorporate Fundamental British Values into our own co-operative values, which include democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. We recognise that students need to learn how to evaluate evidence and to be curious if they are to succeed academically. They also need these skills if they are to be resilient to the threats posed by violent extremists on the vulnerable and easily influenced.
At ELT, our students are given opportunities to take up leadership roles in their schools, enabling them to develop understanding and empathy as well as build confidence. Students, for example, can choose to become anti-bullying ambassadors (trained by the Diana Award) or perhaps student Prevent Leads (who receive training from the Peace Foundation in Warrington).
It is important young people feel valued and, importantly, are encouraged to reflect on what they believe. At ELT, we have found that the national “Make Your Mark” challenge is an excellent way to encourage young people to discuss and prioritise the issues that matter to them, knowing their vote will determine what gets discussed in the Young People’s Parliament.
While young people will be heavily influenced by parental and community values, which are sometimes in direct conflict with a school’s message of respect and tolerance, we, as educators, should not forget that schools are places where young people will grow and develop over time. During this time, careers support should not be overlooked. Right from year 7, students will meet people doing a wide range of jobs, which can help them think differently about the world.
In Manchester, we are fortunate to have a wide range of sectors in a growing economy, so each individual can strive to follow their dream and plan a route to achieving it. Sadly, in some other areas, it may be harder for young people to achieve their employment of choice, but we still need to make sure they feel valued and that they can make a significant contribution to their community and society.
Finally, schools have to remain optimistic about the impact of their work. The recent Manchester terror attack seemed, at first, to put several years’ work at risk. After experiencing increasing levels of racism in the street, it was the students themselves who suggested creating a video for assemblies about reporting hate crime. They also distributed pens, bags and wrist bands to send a powerful message that we will not tolerate hate.
All schools, whatever their phase or type, need to create an ethos of respect and tolerance. I know school leaders around the country take this responsibility very seriously – often in the most challenging of contexts – and we should make the most of opportunities to share ideas, success stories and resources with each other.
The Education and Leadership Trust