Lancaster teenagers urged to sign up for new student-led conference

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A unique event for sixth form students focusing on mental health, politics and environmental issues, empowering them to make a difference personally, nationally and globally, is set to take place in Lancaster this week.

Making a Difference is a conference for Year 12 students from three secondary schools in the city.

It will take place at the University of Cumbria’s Lancaster campus, Bowerham Road, on Friday November 22.

The event is being organised by a small group of 17 to 20-year-olds made up of Year 13 students from Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School and Ripley St Thomas CE Academy, along with second year education students who started their degrees last year at the University of Cumbria.

The day will include a series of lectures and workshops led by experts in the three fields: Dr David Ellis (Lancaster University), Caroline Sharples (Lecturer in Science, University of Cumbria) and Mr Reynolds (Deputy Head of Sixth Form, Lancaster Royal Grammar School).

Kai, who has recently started an education degree, said: “The group we worked with were enthusiastic about making a difference. Initial discussions made it clear that a variety of issues were important to them and as a result the group decided to tackle three topics simultaneously. These matters affect us all and are especially relevant to young people which is why this conference is such an exciting prospect.”

Ellen, a Year 13 student from the working group, said: “The conference is not just about raising awareness of the issues but it is also about inspiring students and giving them the confidence to make a difference. When given the opportunity to organise a conference, we wanted to address matters relevant in the lives of our generation.”

Dr David Ellis from Lancaster University said: “Laptops, social media, emails and smartphones all help us organise our lives, socialise, and even promise to keep us fitter and happier for longer. But what are the unintended consequences of all this technology?”

The University of Cumbria’s Director of the Institute of Education, Ruth Harrison-Palmer, has been supporting the group and said: “The conference provides an opportunity for young people to speak up on behalf of future generations and to learn even more about the issues they deeply care about.”

Caroline Sharples is supporting the climate change workshop at the conference.

She said: “Sometimes the environmental challenges we are facing can seem overwhelming and it can perhaps be hard to imagine how small individual actions can be enough.

“The approach these students have taken focusing on how we can each make a difference is brilliant and so important. The beginning of that path is always to educate ourselves and each other which is exactly what they are doing to help their fellow students feel empowered to make their own difference in world.”

Sarah Haigh, head of Lancaster Royal Grammar School sixth form, one of the schools supporting the event, said: “It has been a real privilege to work with the students on this project. The way that the group has collaborated with the academics and university staff to bring their ideas to life is really admirable and confirms the message they wish to project, that young people can be the catalyst for the change they want to see in the world.”