There are some astonishing facts about the wellbeing of young children in the UK and more specifically those living in London.
“Overall, children in England have relatively low levels of subjective well-being compared to other countries included in the Children’s Worlds survey. England ranked 14th out of 15 countries for life satisfaction and 11th for recent feelings of happiness and feeling positive about the future” – The Children’s Society, The Good Childhood Report 2015
“592,000 Children living in London below the poverty line. 37% of children in the capital” – Child Poverty Action
We could all probably think of different ways to combat this and there isn’t really a wrong or right way.
One teacher from a School in South London is doing just that. Solomon Elliott, a Teach First English teacher was concerned about the work produced by some of his students – he was concerned that he was doing something wrong. Not wanting to fail his students he decided to come up with a unique innovation, a blog written by the students to share with their peers and the world – The Student View.
Blogging has become a popular way of people sharing their views – so why not let children do the same. All school children have to write essays about Shakespeare or a novel or poetry – this project gets them writing about current and contemporary affairs. By letting them write about what they like it gives them practice and allows them to enjoy it without seeing it as an academic chore.
Surprisingly these students have a lot to say about issues that you would never expect them to be interested in. I had the pleasure of speaking to four of the students participating in the project and each of them had their own reasons for joining. “I chose to join The Student View because I felt that I needed more help with my English…and The Student View has helped me with that because it has boosted my vocabulary” Another student joined because he wanted to do the same enrichment as his friend, but since joining he feels that The Student View has made him “like writing more…and encouraged me to speak out about what I like more.”
The four students that I spoke to had all written about articles on topics they are passionate about. One that stood out to me was the Neuromorphic Chips article – I didn’t know about this and here was a child educating me about it.
What makes this project unique is the fact that it aimed at all students – not specifically for underachieving students but anyone who wants to join. In Solomon’s own words “We have a varied group of students but the majority of students we choose are students with potential as we feel all students do have.”
The project started in September 2014 and now runs in six different schools in Croydon, Southwark, Lewisham, Merton, Harrow and Hounslow. They aim to get funding to allow the project to expand and spread across other schools – the mission of the project is to make “the voices of England’s schoolchildren heard.”
Goldsmiths University is also partnered with The Student View and they send journalist academics to work with the students in the schools. One of the challenges of the Student View is getting the students to write positively about all of their topics – therefore removing the bias and spin that can sometimes happen with news reporting.
It was also interesting speaking to two of the 6th Form Mentors that also help the students on the project. Their passion for wanting to help the students really stood out. For example Josh joined because he wasn’t a confident writer when he was younger, but he improved as a result of having “a teacher that could inspire, that could make sure that I was confident enough to write and be proud of my writing” and now he wants “to do the same for students who are in this school.” Similarly, Will wanted to focus on improving the student’s “diction spelling and writing, I decided to improve their voices improve their advocacy skills”.
Both Will and Josh were amazing to listen to and their confidence and authority on what they spoke about made me excited to know that other students participating in the project will one day be able to communicate with complete confidence too.
The Student View is just at its beginning and already they have a library of articles. It’s definitely one to keep watching and see the positive change that they make to the lives of children.