What makes our Junior Leadership Team so unique – Laura Bonnesen

I work in a school which educates in a forward-thinking way and I wanted to ensure the Junior Leadership clearly matched the school’s ethos. When I took over running the Junior Leadership Team, I began to research what other schools ‘student councils’ were doing. Could we learn anything from them? I quickly realised the Life Sciences and Studio Junior Leadership Team, already does all of the things other schools are doing and more. Everything about the schools in the CUC is unique and students get a different experience to other schools- we are progressive in leading the way, so the Junior Leadership Team needs to reflect this. The JLT have quickly become a driving force not afraid to tackle not only small day to day issues in school that just make school life a little bit better, but they also tackle global topics like LGBTQ rights, feminism, opportunities for girls, issues of poverty and mental health. We also have a team of students exploring ways to deal with the ever-growing problem of plastic pollution.  No issue was too big for the JLT.

Students in the past year have met with myself and the Principal to discuss equality, the school environment and LGBTQ issues students wished to raise had direct results, such as more keys available to transgender students to enable them to use a particular bathroom.   The JLT regularly create materials to promote equality and diversity across the schools, such as, creating daily stories for Black History Month sharing the experiences of these influential figures which were uploaded daily via our social media platforms and throughout the school community. Our JLT students regularly plan and deliver year group assemblies on some of these key issues and highlight ways we can tackle them, not only in our school community, but also further afield.

I was pleased with the recognition the Junior Leadership team received from the UTC’s Ofsted visit in January 2020 and the recognition of the substantial contributions they have made for charity. This is in addition to numerous smaller charities they organised support for, such as Macmillan, YPAS, Mermaids, Operation Christmas Child and food bank drives. Mental Health and Wellbeing is a pressing issue for students particularly in the current situation, and the students also have designed materials for days such as International Men’s Day, International Women’s day and delivered fitness sessions and guided meditation sessions for both students and staff.  The JLT manage all aspects of our termly wellness weeks which have been running at the UTC and studio School for three years and are a welcome addition to the school calendar.  This gives the JLT an opportunity to remind staff and students of ways they can promote their own health and wellbeing by giving them the opportunity to try new activities and strategies. Our staff particularly welcome their free massage sessions.

This Christmas, a small team of Year 12 and 13 Junior Leaders helped to collect and prepare 50 food hampers and 50 sets of gifts for the families in our school community who were most in need. The maturity shown in this was outstanding, knowing that they had to be discreet as the gifts were being sent to the families of their peers, knowing they played such a part in making a direct difference to the lives of others.

One of the things that has made me most proud of the Junior Leaders is watching the members grow in confidence. A particular student who comes to mind was very shy to the point of barely whispering an answer to a question in class in year 10,11 and 12. By Year 13 I watched him in awe, confidently chair a meeting with myself, the Principal and a variety of JLT of all different ages. The meeting was on LGBTQ rights and equality and resulted in changes being made., Seeing the change in that student as a person and knowing the team as well as the school had fostered that environment for self-growth and change was immense to see.

The JLT at Liverpool Life Sciences UTC and The Studio School offers students an opportunity to thrive in this environment and pushes its members outside their comfort zone enabling them to grow and develop as individuals and helps them to prepare for life after school exceptionally well.  Students, such as the one described previously, become more confident throughout their journey as JLT members by having the opportunities we present to them such as chairing meetings or presenting to whole year groups. Becoming a member of the JLT enhances student experience and helps us fulfil our mission to ensure our students develop the employability skills they need to move successfully onto the next stage of their journey.