Last Friday, I had the pleasure of joining practitioners from schools and trusts in Greater Manchester and beyond, as we came together for One Education’s annual Safeguarding Conference 2023.
Bringing together national leaders in child protection and safeguarding, it was set to be an empowering and thought-provoking day. From mental health and social media, to youth violence and child poverty, we had so many themes and topics to explore.
Keep reading to find out what it’s like to be a delegate for the day and discover what we learned.
We were thrilled that so many made the journey to The Studio in Manchester to join us for the event! It was lovely to catch up with new and familiar faces over a nice cup of coffee before the conference began.
To kickstart the event, we heard from Jess Lane, Head of Education Welfare and Safeguarding, and Rachel Foster, HR and Education Strategy Director. They reflected that, at every Safeguarding Conference, there are always lots of difficult discussions to be had. Today would be no different, as we confront the many welfare concerns that have emerged in the aftermath of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis. But ultimately, they reminded us that today was about making connections, working together, and remembering that we are never alone in the challenges we face.
First Keynote – Jeffrey Boakye
Our first keynote of the day was delivered by Jeffrey Boakye, author, broadcaster and educator. Jeffrey spoke about the challenges of exclusion and its pervasiveness in society. Drawing on his own experiences, as well as broader research, Jeffrey explained that even when exclusion isn’t intended, it can still be felt. As a result, young people can begin to lean away from the institutions that are supposed to serve them, missing out on opportunities and exacerbating inequality. Whilst driving social change can feel like a huge demand for teachers, who already face so many pressures and are often scared to get things wrong, Jeffrey explained that the first step is simple: open and honest communication.
As a former English teacher, Jeffrey is a big fan of metaphors and had lots to share! One of our favourites was the call for school leaders to act as lifeguards, a reminder to always stay vigilant, aware of the dangers, and prepared to act when pupils are struggling. Jeffrey’s keynote gave us many incredible insights and questions to consider, perfectly setting the tone for the rest of the day!
84 Youth Workshop
Next, I headed over to my first workshop led by Akemia Minott, director of 84 Youth. Whilst most people in the UK will never personally know a murder victim, 84 Youth works alongside a generation of young people in South Central Manchester who are suffering with the loss of their friends and neighbours. We learned how discrimination in all its forms can put young people at risk of a ‘peripheral existence,’ enhancing the lure of criminal activity and perpetuating the cycle of violence. To prevent the marginalisation of vulnerable young people, we spoke about the importance of identifying the signs of trauma in school, responding with care, and providing access to support.
Second Keynote – Des Lynch
Following a quick tea break, it was time for the second keynote, delivered by Des Lynch, CEO of children’s charity Wood Street Mission. Des talked to us about how schools can work together with the voluntary sector to support children living in poverty, sharing examples of how his own charity has helped families across the generations. With projects like ‘Smart Start,’ the charity ensures children have the things they need to succeed in school, including uniforms, stationery and PE kits, whilst ‘Family Basics’ provides low-income families with all the day-to-day essentials: toiletries, bedding and clothes.
But in order for children to learn, make friends, and meaningfully participate in their communities, Des explained they need more than the basic necessities; they need to feel like they belong. That’s why Wood Street Mission also strives to ensure every child can enjoy Christmas presents, childhood experiences, and books of their very own. But Des explained that the voluntary sector cannot tackle child poverty alone. He urged schools and trusts to reach out to the charities in their local areas. By working in collaboration, we can respond effectively to children’s needs and make education a level playing field.
After a truly informative and inspirational morning, delegates got the chance to network with colleagues and enjoy some fabulous food together. It was great to hear discussions carry on outside the workshops, as practitioners continued to share ideas and reflect on each other’s practices.
We also enjoyed browsing the stalls from the wonderful exhibitors. Luckily, we had our One Education tote bags on hand to fill with brand new children’s books and so much more. With so many spectacular resources on offer, we simply couldn’t refuse!
Show Racism the Red Card Workshop
After lunch, I arrived at my next workshop to learn how educators can challenge racism in the classroom and embed an anti-racism culture in school. We discussed the problem of unconscious bias and how it can manifest in education, either through uniform policies, behaviour management, and even interactions between staff. We explored examples of everyday racism that can emerge in school and considered ways we might approach them, acknowledging that there might not always be intent, but it is still important to address the harm.
Final keynote – 3 Dads Walking
Finally we heard from Mike Palmer, a member of 3 Dads Walking, fathers and campaigners for suicide awareness. Mike told us the stories of their three girls, Beth, Sophie and Emily. Despite their differences, they all shared one thing in common: they were the last person their fathers expected to take their own lives. By sharing their experiences, the 3 Dads hope to open up conversations around suicide, reduce the stigma, and ultimately save young lives.
In memory of their daughters, 3 Dads set out walking 300 miles across the UK to raise funds and awareness. They were surprised to find they were never alone, as people across the country came to join them and offer their support. Through the process of sharing stories, they were able to grieve, heal, and even learn how to laugh again. But so many people still don’t know how to have these conversations, and are often shocked to discover that suicide is the main cause of death in young people under the age of 35. With this in mind, Mike asked schools to consider how they can take preventative measures against suicide by talking to pupils and building up their self-esteem, resilience and wellbeing. By equipping students with the skills to deal with suicidal thoughts and the confidence to seek out support, 3 Dads Walking believes countless more lives can be saved.
With an incredibly touching and powerful finish, the Safeguarding Conference came to an end. A huge thanks to our fantastic keynote speakers, workshop hosts and exhibitors. We couldn’t have done it without you!
We are delighted to hear that delegates enjoyed their day and took lots of new ideas back to school with them. It was a pleasure to meet you all and, as always, we will take your feedback into account when designing opportunities for training and development in the future. We look forward to meeting you again!
Visit our conference page to see what else we have in store and book your place on our next event.