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Young conference delegates will help shape education 1 October 2012

STUDENTS from the Island’s five secondary schools will play a part in setting the agenda for the future when they meet for the Island’s first Young Learners’ Conference next week.

Seventy-five 11 to 18-year-olds will come together in proper conference conditions at the Mount Murray Hotel and Country Club, Santon, on Thursday 11th October.

They will spend the day exploring issues affecting their education and take back to school ideas to put to their headteachers.

The conference – the first gathering of secondary pupils for such a purpose – follows the DEC’s ‘pupil voice’ initiative, which led to the establishment, last year, of an all-Island council of primary pupils.

Delegates at next week’s conference will comprise students in Years 7, 8, 9, 12 and 13 at Ballakermeen High School, Castle Rushen High School, Queen Elizabeth II High School, Ramsey Grammar School and St Ninian’s High School, meaning there will be a broad range of views expressed.

Tables will be mixed to ensure students work with those from other schools and the sixth form students will act as mentors to help younger learners focus on tasks and activities.

Sessions will see delegates explaining to an imaginary alien what it’s like to be a young person in the Island and a student at their school and planning a new school from scratch, with different groups focusing on different aspects, such as the layout of the building and what’s studied.

The conference will end with students preparing proposals to take back to their schools’ leadership. If these have merit, schools may implement them, explained Julie Owen, Assistant Headteacher at Ramsey Grammar School, who is organising the conference on behalf of the Department of Education and Children.

Mrs Owen said the event would bring together young people who may not normally meet to discuss what it’s like to be a young learner in the Island.

‘Secondary school students from across the Island don't get many opportunities to share their experiences of what it's like to be a young person in the Isle of Man,’ she said.
‘When they meet, it is often for a specific activity or event, often linked to specialist interests such as music or sport. This event is more about who they are rather than what they do.’

The concept of children being seen and not heard is outdated. Students can offer valuable input into how their schools develop, Mrs Owen said.

‘Schools will hear from their young learners about what is important to them in the way that they learn, achieve and make progress.
‘The event links in with the DEC’s ‘six Rs’ curriculum, which aims to ensure learners are equipped for adult life with qualities such as resourcefulness, resilience, remembering skills, reflectiveness, readiness and relationships that are positive.’

Mike Hennessy, Chief Executive of the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce, John Knight, who heads the Children’s Centre, Jan Gimbert, Secondary School Improvement Adviser, and Paul Melling, Head of Adventure Education (part of the DEC) will join Mrs Owen in leading sessions.

Students will tell conference organisers how valuable the event was and what they have found out about themselves as learners.

Feedback from students themselves will determine whether the conference becomes a regular event in the school calendar,’ Mrs Owen said. ‘There is a clear opportunity for students to develop the event in a way that will benefit them and their schools directly.’

For more information about the event, ring Mrs Owen on 811100 or email j.owen@rgs.sch.im

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