It is important to us that we use our voice and platform to speak about how young people can be better supported. Therefore, we are delighted that our founder Sabrina was interviewed by BBC Politics London where she got to share some of our insights. Please see below a short snippet from the interview.
We were invited to deliver a presentation at Goldsmiths University of London regarding the 'school to prison pipeline' and our Switch Ambassador Programme. The school to prison pipeline is a process where certain disciplinary practices in schools increases the likelihood that certain students will come into contact with the criminal justice system.
There is a lot of evidence which supports the school to prison pipeline. For instance, The Ministry of Justice ¹ conducted a study and they found that 63% of prisoners reported being fixed period excluded when at school and 42% of prisoners reported being permanently excluded. The excluded prisoners were also more likely to be repeat offenders than the other prisoners. Even research dating all the way back to 1995 supports the notion of the school to prison pipeline. ² Research was conducted and it was found that three quarters of males, and nearly half of the females who had been temporarily excluded, and all the males and over half the females who had been permanently excluded from school, were offenders.²
Say It With Your Chest is helping to stop the school to prison pipeline via our Switch Ambassador Programme. Our programme works with students who are at the highest risk of exclusion. The programme consists of bespoke group workshops and 1:1 mentoring sessions which look at why the behaviours which can lead to being excluded are occurring. Topics vary but some of the topics that could be covered are the power of choices and why do I feel this way. The programme also gives young people a voice, by engaging them in conversations regarding how they can be better supported to stay in school and engaged with their education. Currently, students might rightly feel that all decisions around their education and lives are made by others; this can leave them feeling dis-empowered. The Switch Ambassador Programme empowers students rather than rescuing them, because we want students to take ownership of their future, their choices and the person that they want to be.
² Graham, J. and Bowling, B. (1995) Young People and Crime. London: Home
Office Research Study 145. London: HMSO.
We spoke at a serious violence collective about our work with young girls who are likely to be excluded and exposed to violence. We feel that it is important that we share what we have our learnt based on our work. So below you will see a short summary of our top tips of how to best support and champion girls affected by serious violence.
- Listen to understand and do not listen to respond. Alot of young girls do not feel that they have someone that they can talk to, someone that cares and someone who wants the best for them. Sometimes simply just being there is more powerful than any words or advice that you may offer.
- If the young girl does want to communicate with you or to express how she is feeling make sure it is in the way that they feel most comfortable. This may be by speaking to you, writing how they feel, drawing how they feel or it may simply be them being able to sit in silence with you as this may make them feel safe.
- Empower the young girls but do not try to rescue them, “ the best teachers show you where to look but do not tell you what to see” – Alexander Trenfor
- Support and champion the girls by being aware that you may need to think outside the box to recognise that they need support. Some girls may be crying out for help but they do not know how to directly ask for help as they may have been told bad things will happen to them if they tell anyone what they have witnessed or experienced.
- Ask the person how they would like to be supported, sometimes what we think will help someone is not what they need. We need to adapt our methods to suit the person the person should not have to adapt to us.
We are excited to announce that our founder Sabrina, has been awarded a Shackleton Leadership Award for her work with Say It With Your Chest. This award means that we have secured funding of £10,000 to expand our impact. We are really looking forward to working with more young people thanks to the grant.
Currently, there are not enough preventative methods for knife crime and this is something that needs to change. This blog post will offer our perspective on how knife crime has impacted those we work with whilst also giving you an insight as to why some students get involved in knife crime. We will also outline what changes we believe need to be made in society to reduce knife crime. We have adapted our speech that we delivered on a panel in parliament last week into a blog.
What are the reasons that some young people turn to knife crime?
Generally young people do not trust the police to protect them, therefore to protect themselves they carry a knife, which ends up in them using it if they get in a situation of conflict. Young people also feel that other people are carrying knives and they would rather be a perpetrator than a victim because they are simply trying to survive the environment that they are living in. Gang initiation is also another reason why young people are turning to knife crime. Additionally, sometimes young people associate with the wrong people and then they find themselves in a situation that they feel they cannot leave. For example young people in some cases are being exploited they are told ‘’you stab this person or you will be stabbed.’’ Young people have told us that they do not value their own life, therefore they do not value the lives of others. We conducted a survey at a pupil referral unit (this is where excluded children are educated). We were shocked to find that 100% of the participants said that they would rather be feared by all than loved by all. We think this mindset is one of the main reasons why young people are turning to knife crime.
What are the possible solutions?
Stop and search is intervening too late and it does not look at WHY the young person felt the need to carry a knife in the first place. The focus has traditionally been on intervention but the balance needs to shift to prevention. We are happy to see that this is something that the Home Office is tackling by investing millions into the Youth Endowment Fund to discover what early interventions works for youth violence. Another solution is listening more to what young people’s needs are. For example many young people say if they had a youth centre or somewhere to go after school they feel this would make a big difference in reducing knife crime.
We believe that focusing on reducing exclusions in schools is also a solution. According to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime “ certain groups of young people such as those who have been permanently excluded show a greater risk of being exposed to knife crime and gangs.” Also, research conducted by children’s charity Barnardo’s and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime found that “86% of parents in the capital are worried that excluded children are most at risk of being involved in knife crime and serious youth violence than those in mainstream schools.” This is one of the reasons why Say It With Your Chest focuses on reducing the rates of exclusions. However, more awareness needs to be raised regarding lowering exclusions being one of the possible solutions to knife crime.
Nelson Mandela famously stated “ education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” With this in mind, education is also a possible solution to knife crime. Those who work with young people need to be educated to spot the signs of potential involvement in youth violence so early intervention help can be given, the young people need to be educated regarding the risks of knife crime and alternative routes that they can choose instead and policy makers need to be educated regarding what will actually work.
Everyone in society also needs to work more collaboratively, as everyone has a different piece of the puzzle that they can add to help solve the problem of knife crime. We also think that some young people involved in knife crime are a victim but in society we are seeing them as only a perpetrator, as we are not taking the time to understand that possible exploitation is taking place. This is something that needs to change.
Why is it important that young people’s voices are heard when thinking about tackling knife crime?
A rule of starting any business is that you have to consult your target market. So why are we not adapting this same method when it comes to young people, solutions are being created without consulting the people who are affected. Young people have the answers to the problem but the question is are the right people listening? We have seen first hand how effective it is giving young people a voice and young people need to be encouraged to SAY IT WITH THEIR CHEST whatever it is that they think about knife crime and the proposed solutions. Including young people in creating the solution will also give them a sense of empowerment and it will be a positive example of how they can lead positive social change regarding things that matter to them. If young people are not involved in planning what is to happen, or not consulted about what they want or need, we should not be surprised when they respond with resentment and a low level of cooperation. An approach based on partnership , by contrast is likely to produce a much higher level of commitment.
Our founder Sabrina has been attending a 10 week business development course to develop Say It With Your Chest. At the end of the course she had to pitch the concept behind Say It With Your Chest to a panel of judges. We are happy to announce that Sabrina was awarded first place in the pitching event which means that we can expand Say It With Your Chest with the money that we have been given.
We were invited to speak on BBC Asian Network in April regarding the ‘school to prison pipeline’ , school exclusions and what Say It With Your Chest does. If you want to listen we have uploaded the interview below.
Teaching mental health in the curriculum we believe will be good for students and teachers. This is because it may encourage students who would normally not speak up to seek extra support. Also, mental health being taught in the curriculum will give teachers a better understanding of disorders which they may have not previously understood.
What is the current problem?
71% of teachers told the charity (Mental Health Foundation) that they lack the right training to help them address mental health concerns with pupils and only 13% have received mental health first aid training. With the increase of young people being referred to CAMHS, it is vital that staff feel confident to support the needs of their students.¹
What could be covered in the curriculum?
In the classes the students could be given the opportunity to learn about the symptoms and causes of having mental health difficulties and what having good mental health means. The students could also learn how the following factors contribute to our overall well-being:
Getting enough sleep – Ensuring that you get an adequate amount of sleep each night is essential for sustaining healthy bodily functions. It is recommended that school aged children need 8-10 hours of sleep.² There are many studies published stating that a lack of sleep has a dramatic impact on our mental health. These studies estimate that 90% of children, experience sleep problems. ³
Expressing ourselves – It is important that we all have a support system; that we can discuss our concerns with. Not everyone may feel comfortable discussing their emotions however, having a diary where we can write how we are feeling in detail can be just as effective.
Having a balanced diet – Sustaining a balanced diet is not only vital for our physical health but also for our psychological health. A review conducted by O’Neil et al. (2014) showed that unhelpful dietary patterns (including higher intake of foods with saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and processed food products) are linked to poorer mental health in children and adolescents.4
Could increased mental health awareness reduce the number of students being excluded ?
It is hard to determine at the moment if increased mental health awareness could reduce the number of students that are excluded. However, if staff and students have a better understanding of mental health then more early interventions can be put in place which could stop certain behaviors which lead to exclusion occurring.
This blog post was written for Say It With Your Chest by Candice Williams who is a mental health blogger.
As some of you may know, May is mental health awareness month. With exclusions currently being a key topic of discussion it is a crucial time to understand a) if there is a relationship between poor mental health and exclusions and b) what the relationship is.
Mental health includes our physical, psychological, social and emotional well-being which impacts how we think, feel and act. The cause of mental health disorders can be caused by various factors such as, brain chemistry, childhood trauma and long term stress.
What is the problem?
With the exclusion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, children with special educational needs and children from the black and minority ethnic community on the rise, I was curious to see what role mental health played in the lives of those excluded. According to an article published by the Guardian in August 2017, “school exclusion is linked to long term mental health problems.”¹
A study conducted by the university of Exeter² found an association between psychological distress and exclusion: children with psychological distress and mental health problems were more likely to be excluded and their exclusion acted as a predictor of increased psychological distress three years later. Professor Tamsin Ford, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Exeter’s Medical School, warned that excluded children can develop a range of mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety as well as behavioural disturbance.²
So, what next?
I believe schools need to understand how important it is to look at whether a mental health problem may be causing behaviours to be displayed which could contribute to the student being excluded. Ford sums this idea up very nicely by saying “by avoiding exclusion and finding other solutions to poor behaviour, schools can help children’s mental health in the future as well as their education.”
As stated in a document called Mental health and behaviour in schools³ provided by the Department for Education, schools could implement prevention strategies aimed to promote the well-being of their pupils. All students should have adequate access to specialist support in the event of their well-being impacting their school life. Teachers should receive adequate training to ensure that they are able to cater to students who may be affected by poor mental health. In turn, students should be provided with a comforting space where they are able to discuss their thoughts and feelings freely. It is essential that we provide all students with substantial support throughout their school experience to enhance their education as best as possible.
To summarise, although being excluded from school in some cases is only for a couple of days the impact and repercussions for the child and parents are much wider.² Therefore, offering support to young people who display challenging behavior could help prevent fixed period and permanent exclusions as well as future psychopathology.²
Three students discuss their opinions of exclusions. These students have started their own campaign called No Lost Causes as they wanted to start a youth-led movement which represents the change that the education system needs.
To follow their journey you can find them on twitter and instagram by searching: @NLcauses and for enquiries contact them by emailing email@example.com