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Making children’s voices count in the Island 14 May 2012

ORGANISATIONS that give children a genuine ‘voice’ can now be assessed for a quality benchmark by local evaluators.

Nigel Bennett, Headteacher of St John’s Primary School, and Annette Baker, Deputy Headteacher of Ballakermeen High School, have qualified to assess organisations in the Island bidding for an Investing in Children award. Investing in Children

Their own schools have held the award for seven years, the only local organisations to currently do so.

Investing in Children was established in County Durham the 1990s by local authority and NHS managers. It helps young people to shape services provided for them by airing their views with the adults in charge. In 2004, the Investing in Children Development Agency was created to allow organisations outside of County Durham to use the approach.

After intensive training with Liam Cairns, Director of Investing in Children, Nigel and Annette are looking forward to leading the initiative on the Isle of Man.

To qualify as Investing in Children, organisations must prove they have not only listened to young people but acted upon what they say to bring about change. The opinions of young people themselves will prove crucial to organisations gaining the award, with Nigel and Annette interviewing them to gain their views.

Already, five local schools have embarked on the process and it could eventually be extended to youth groups, Government organisations, GPs’ surgeries, health care providers and the police force as well as private organisations and charities.

Nigel said:

‘By supporting children and young people in taking part in decisions about the services they use, Investing in Children is trying to make sure that their good ideas are listened to and acted upon. This should result in service improvements and better outcomes.’

Annette said:

‘The process of gaining the Investing in Children award is straightforward for participating organisations. The emphasis is on dialogue with young people, not on box-ticking paperwork.’

This school year has been designated the Year of Pupil Voice by the Department of Education and Children. An all-Island ‘school council’ for primaries in the form of the Pupil Voice Forum has already been set up and has examined issues as diverse as what helps children learn and what they think of school meals.

Martin Barrow, Director of Education, said:

‘Adults don’t have the monopoly on good ideas. Our young people are bright individuals with ideas of their own regarding what’s provided for them and how things can be improved and having experienced teachers to evaluate this locally, leading to an accredited award, will hopefully encourage more schools and organisations working with children to take these opinions into account in their planning.’

For more information about Investing in Children, contact Nigel at headteacher@stjohns.sch.im (tel: 801282) or Annette at A.Baker@bhs.sch.im (tel: 648700).

More about Investing in Children: http://www.iic-uk.org/

Photo: Nigel Bennett and Annette Baker

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