Allies and Advocates – Supporting Berkhamsted Schools

Allies and Advocates – Supporting Berkhamsted Schools

22 March 2022

The Allies and Advocates Leaders learn about why allyship and advocacy are important far beyond the school gates and why many employers are investing in similar schemes.

Members of our Allies and Advocates Leadership Team will be role models, aware of the influence they have on the school community. Small leadership teams comprised of Sixth Form boys and girls using their voices to promote the importance of mutual respect, equality and healthy relationships, whilst also promoting a willingness to call out any forms of disrespectful or harmful behaviour.

Prior to the recap session (pictured above), we were able to sit in on one session conducted by Angus W, Charlee F and Kat J and the Year 12’s challenged the Year 9 girls to consider what they knew to be stereotypes and then consider the potential impact of those words and phrases.

At Berkhamsted School, time is allowed for personal growth and development and we provide opportunities for our Year 12 students to pass on their knowledge of school life and important social matters. This develops communication and leadership skills and empowers students to be responsible young adults whom the younger students will admire and emulate. Dedicating time for our Sixth Formers to have discussions with younger students is a critical way to develop our school culture and reinforce our school values.

The thought-provoking questions that were posed to the group challenged their views, not only on how they would react if they were the victims of discriminatory or sexist language, but also on what they would do if they were to hear such comments.

The 30-minute session began with breaking out into small groups which facilitated in-depth conversations. Angus, Charlee and Kat rotated around the room to help aid discussions and encourage potential answers. Once the answers had been written down and expanded on, the class reverted to a whole group and then answers were shared with peers.

The scheme provides our trainee advocates with safeguarding training and guidance on how to lead discussions effectively. It also provides an insight into how some large companies operate, how they work to develop their cultures in a positive fashion and how they deal with discriminatory behaviours. The students are encouraged to look beyond school, to learn about the world they will be entering in a few years, and then to deliver sessions with minimal supervision that will have a real impact.

Charlee shared that “these sessions are really good for the younger years, as i think they are more likely to look up to us sixth formers and actually listen to us and what we are saying.” When asked, Kat added that “these sessions are useful as they spark conversations about important topics which can educate pupils on how to respect each other.”

One Tutor commented provided the following feedback after observing a session in the Boys School: “Can I just share how impressed I am! What a wonderful initiative. The students that ran our session in Tilman today were exemplary. They were brilliant. They arrived at 8:20 and were setting up the classroom in plenty of time for the session. They spoke with confidence and clarity about the topics and the boys responded so maturely as a result. I think they responded much better to the Sixth Formers about this topic, than they would have done with just me. We all know the tendency for boys to be a little ‘silly’ around potentially sensitive topics. This didn’t happen at all this morning; they were engaged and responsive at all times. It was also great to have both males and females present. Looking forward to the next session! I thanked the students at the end of the session but please do pass on my thanks again to them.

One key benefit of the programme is the ability to give feedback directly to the School’s leadership team on what improvements can be made across the schools. Martin Walker, the Head of Sixth, spoke of his pride in seeing Sixth Formers giving their time to have a positive impact on the younger pupils: “It is wonderful to see them giving back to the community whilst developing their own leadership skills. We must never underestimate the power of the students to find solutions to some of the problems that are affecting society. I think they inspire us all and give us hope for the future!”

The session that we watched was the first session in a series available to support younger boys and girls; the next session will be in a few weeks’ time – watch this space! Thank you to the professionals from various industries for their time and advice, to the Year 9 pupils for their engagement and the Year 12 for their commitment and leadership. We really enjoyed sampling the session for ourselves.

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