Schoolchildren launch manifesto to tackle youth violence in conference at UCB

January 2019

Children from five schools across the West Midlands have developed a plan to help tackle the problems of youth violence and gangs at a conference held at University College Birmingham.

The Peace ACT Conference saw pupils meet at UCB to discuss how to combat the dangers of knife crime and gang culture among young people following a 12-week programme designed to encourage leadership and positive aspiration.

Fifty children took part in the Raising Aspirations through Peer Leadership (RAP) Programme, developed by Activating Creative Talent CIC (ACT) and Aim Higher. During the programme, they examined how influences such as social media and youth culture can impact on young people's beliefs and values, particularly on issues such as knife carrying and informing police.

The programme culminated at UCB's McIntyre House, where pupils delivered a series of presentations before working to develop a ‘Peace ACT Manifesto' for how they can lead and influence other young people to make a positive impact within their schools and communities.

The event also included a tour of the University and a speech by UCB lecturer Craig Pinkney on the importance of young people taking leadership and being part of the conversation around youth violence.

"It was an overwhelming response," said Teswal White, Director of ACT CIC. "It was an awesome event because we're listening to young people. They were the leaders of the event, and they were elated with what they've achieved."

The conference saw presentations by pupils from Tudor Grange Academy (Kingshurst), John Willmott School (Sutton Coldfield), Greenwood Academy (Castle Vale) and Oldbury Academy, while Bristnall Hall Academy (Oldbury) were also involved in the RAP Programme.

Among the themes covered were the impact of youth violence, joint enterprise and the history of gangs, as well as controversy surrounding drill music and the censoring of art.

And, in their Peace ACT Manifesto, the children agreed to help develop an understanding of different cultures, to seek the use of restorative justice for resolving conflict in schools, and to encourage young people to think carefully about their use of social media, as well as talking more about their life experiences.

The day concluded with a ceremony where pupils graduated as peace ambassadors, working as part of a local initiative linked with the International Day of Peace held in September.

"It's our mission over the next three years to train up 500 peace ambassadors," said Teswal. "We want to raise peer leaders and peace ambassadors within schools.

"Adults are trying to respond to youth violence, but much of the time, young people are not involved in that conversation in any meaningful way.

"We believe it's about trying to create a pathway so that young people have the opportunity to become a leader. Young people need to know they are being believed in, that adults believe in them, so they can start to believe in themselves."

Any UCB alumni who wish to arrange similar events or conferences at the University can get in touch via email at alumni@ucb.ac.uk.

Find out about UCB's range of courses within the School of Education, Health and Community here.

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