A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
Peer research into how the national curriculum should prepare young people for life found that better delivery of life skills in school will reap economic rewards, boost the democratic process and enable a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.
Last October, UK Youth Parliament gathered for its annual sitting at the House of Commons and voted for the theme of their 2013 campaign. After listening to debates on five different issues the Curriculum for Life theme received a massive vote – 154 out of 295 Members of Youth Parliament voted for a radical overhaul of citizenship education and Personal Social and Health Education (PHSE) in schools.
At the same time, the SW Regional Youth Work Unit had raised some funding to start a regional peer research project and we were looking for a sponsor for our first piece of research. We had discovered a need for better peer research after working with groups of young people who were being consulted on issues with little data to inform them and which was generally adult based research. There was another reason too – we’re pretty competitive in the South West and we knew that other regions had already run some successful peer research projects and we wanted to get in on the action, too!
So, in February we sent out letters to our contacts asking for Expressions of Interest to take part in a four-month research project into the Curriculum for Life, and 20 groups in the South West responded.
However, it has to be said that four months is not a long time to train your group to a Level 2 accredited standard in research skills, then conduct the research, go on a research residential weekend and lastly, write a report ready for the Youth Select Committees in July. These, frankly, ridiculous timescales meant that only six groups were able to start and only four completed the project.
The young researchers however, were far less concerned about these challenges than the project co-ordinator and their youth workers, and remained chilled and confident that they would meet the deadlines.
And oh boy – did they meet them!
Over 1000 young people in the region took part in surveys covering seven different topics that made up the campaign. Each group chose what to cover and between them they produced in-depth data on what young people were already learning about, what’s useful and what they would like more of in the following areas: political, sex and relationships, cultural awareness, community cohesion, finance skills, sustainable living and citizenship education.
The young people who took part developed a range of skills, learning what research is and why we do it, how to conduct research responsibly, which methods to use, how to analyse and present data and how to write a research report.
A working weekend
On June 24, the young people met up in Cornwall and each group presented their findings to focus groups who then helped them to write conclusions and recommendations.
Aside from a welcome surfing session, they all worked really hard and completed the research report by the time they left on the Sunday. Amazing food, good company and plenty to do in their free-time all made the weekend a really enjoyable experience.
The report is now being used as part of the campaign, and 19 of the young researchers have submitted a portfolio of evidence for Level 2 accreditation, and all that remains is the sand in our wetsuits…or so we thought.
In fact, the report has received some excellent feedback and lots of enquiries from other groups wanting to work with us again. Three of the groups have received commissions to run local peer research projects and are busy looking for funding and sponsors so that they can carry out another regional project.
The report conveys the strong message that young people really do want to be empowered with excellent life skills to take them into adulthood as competent and valued members of their communities. We hope that you enjoy reading the report, and if you have any questions about the research, please do get in touch!
The Youth Work Unit at Learning South West