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Students who worked against County Lines gangs and deprivation win prestigious Goldsmiths’ Awards for Community Engagement

The Final of the Goldsmith's Awards for Community Engagement

Students who worked against County Lines gangs and deprivation through community initiatives including jiu-jitsu classes have been recognised at the prestigious Goldsmiths’ Awards for Community Engagement.

The Mosslands School in Wallasey won the gold medal at a final round involving seven other schools on Tuesday 27 June, after 172 secondary schools from across the UK originally entered the competition.

During Tuesday’s final at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London, the eight schools presented their community projects to a panel of judges, with students travelling from as far as Northern Ireland and as near as Buckinghamshire to take part. The judges also quizzed the pupils at stands they had set up.

County Durham’s Ferryhill School was awarded the silver medal for their work to change the perceptions of young people in their area. This involved raising crime awareness, collecting litter and keeping care home residents company.

Speaking at the event, Goldsmiths’ Company Prime Warden Professor Charles Mackworth-Young CVO congratulated the finalists for their achievements

“By being here today, you have been recognised for the work you have been doing,” he told the schools. “Ferryhill School was named runner-up for their tremendous amount of initiative, inventiveness, and engagement with the local community.

“But the gold prize went to Mosslands and a group of students who have shown a huge amount of engagement and initiative with a very challenging local population and demonstrated how they really make a difference to lives in their area.”

While Mosslands received a gold medal and a cheque for £3,000 to be used for increasing the impact of the school’s charitable activities, Ferryhill won a silver medal and a cheque for £1,000. The other schools were presented with finalist certificates.

Tragedy and local need inspire students’ projects

The Mosslands School’s local area has been seriously impacted by County Lines gangs, notably when 26-year-old Elle Edwards was shot in a Wallasey pub on Christmas Eve, generating national news headlines.

To help keep young people away from crime, Mosslands students have for the past three years worked with Merseyside Police to deliver their Active Citizenship project. This involves after-school sessions once a week to engage young people with volunteering, Scouts, the police cadets, and martial arts. Three-hundred and sixty young people will be involved with the project this calendar year.

Ferryhill School, hailing from one of England’s most deprived areas, has helped around 4,000 people through its work with a local foodbank. Its 160 student leaders have also worked with Durham Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner to set up a scheme to reward primary school pupils who raise awareness or reduce crime.

The scheme has been so successful that Ferryhill students were invited by three local MPs to discuss it in Parliament and there is talk of the scheme being expanded to other local police forces.

Ferryhill School pupils Erin Wilson and Dominic Dobinson said about their volunteering: “We get a lot of positive feedback on our work, especially from the managers at our local care homes, saying what a wonderful school we are for going to have tea with them.

On reaching the finals, they said: “It feels amazing to be here because all of the work we have gone through to help our community has paid off and we have come this far. Even if we didn’t win today, I’m happy we have come this far.”

Stars of BBC One show and food bank volunteers also make final

One of the centrepieces for St. Michael’s Church of England High School’s work has been its 21st Century Child project. Through this scheme, the West Midlands school has for eight years delivered information events for students and parents on topics such as social media, mental health, body image, and youth violence.

Stockport School reached the finals with their intergenerational dementia choir project, which was started after two staff’s family members were diagnosed with the condition. One of the choir members spoke at the finals how she used to sing for her grandparents when they affected by the condition. The choir was featured in a BBC One show presented by Line of Duty star Vicky McClure.

The Halifax Academy opened a community kitchen to provide over 20,000 meals to people in need and planted over 300 trees. Its school has also provided compact gardens to help provide fruit and vegetables to households in their mill town which has many terraced homes and limited garden space.

Newbridge Integrated School from Northern Ireland, which educates Protestant, Catholic and other students, has three key projects: intergenerational work, anti-bullying ambassadors, and their work to develop the skills of the student population. For their anti-bullying work, for example, 35 student ambassadors have been speaking in local primary schools about anti-bullying strategies and how to work together to promote kindness.

Alfriston School, a specialist school in Buckinghamshire, has worked to inspire young people with special educational needs and disabilities to go out into the community and show what they can do. This Alfriston achieves by students helping package up groceries for a local food bank, working with a social enterprise to create craft products, and assisting the Chiltern Rangers with their conservation work.

Alfriston School pupils Sarah Plumridge, Amy Wildman, and Esha Ilyas said they were “honoured to be here and see all these presentations. We love the environment, we love everyone’s work and how they have been contributing towards the community.”

Brighton College has run a series of projects to help their community, including the Pelican Primary Club which provides extracurricular activities, led by Brighton students, for primary pupils in areas such as coding and Mandarin. Brighton students have also provided “tea and company” for the local homeless community to tackle loneliness. The school has also been helping teach English to Syrian refugees.

Created in 2018, the Goldsmiths’ Awards for Community Engagement recognise and celebrate the extracurricular efforts that the schools across the UK make to support their local communities through volunteer work and charitable initiatives. This year’s heats were held in March to determine the finalists.

Awards chair and judge Judith Cobham-Lowe OBE called it “wonderful” to welcome the finalists to Goldsmiths’ Hall on Tuesday, adding: “Each of these schools have made a remarkable contribution to their local community and all eight of them ought to be applauded.

“The finalists each demonstrated how they have gone above and beyond to engage with their local community, despite problems caused by deprivation or crime. Their work is precisely what the Goldsmiths’ Awards for Community Engagement are here to recognise.”

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