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Empowering Student Voice Conference 2023


By Bryony Tallack, SUN Project Facilitator

Last month, the Southern Universities Network (SUN) hosted its second Empowering Student Voice conference in sunny Dorset. The sun certainly shone for the event (pun intended!): without a cloud in the sky, 40 Year 7-10 student council members from four schools experienced Bournemouth University’s impressive campus in all its glory.

Key Note Talk – Becky McDade, Children’s Rights and Engagement Team

The day began with an engaging talk from Becky McDade, a member of the Children’s Rights and Engagement Team at Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council whose role is to ensure that young people are listened to
when decisions are being made in their local area. Becky kicked off the conference by offering a great insight into the successes of current youth-led projects, along with outlining future opportunities. Students learned
about the exciting prospect of getting involved both locally, in the council’s Youth Fund panel, and nationally in the UK Youth Parliament. We also heard from current UK Youth Parliament members via recorded messages,
outlining their own interesting projects and providing invaluable ‘food for thought’ for our group of young people.

Pete Thompson, SUN Project Leader

The Workshops‘fun, involved, equal’

Students rotated around three unique workshops throughout the day, with speakers from Participation People, Speakers Trust, and ‘SUBU’, Bournemouth University’s Student Union, all of which equipped the young
people with tangible skills to take back to their respective schools.

The Speakers Trust – Jenny Stewart-Cosgrove

They practiced public speaking in a lively and engaging workshop with the Speakers Trust, described by one student as,

‘fun, involved, equal’: I learnt the 10 techniques of speaking and being able to communicate with people I don’t know really well
Student – Anonymous

When asked what they will take away from this workshop, one student commented that they are now a “more confident speaker”, while another said that they “have learnt suspense, confidence and how to approach performing a speech”, invaluable skills which they can apply when discussing topics that they care about.

With Participation People, the students were asked to collaborate in groups to come up with one key idea that could improve their student meetings. As part of their task, they were given a useful ‘Student Voice Meeting Wizard Tool’: a template on which to plan their meetings, set an agenda and note any actions from their student council meetings. Described by one student as “important, useful, inclusive”, this workshop helped them learn “how to follow organised steps to complete a goal and how to improve house council meetings”. One particularly thoughtful and popular idea that came about during the activity was that they would like to ‘converse and collaborate’ with student councils from other local schools, to share ideas and learn from each other.

Participation People – Ed Cooney

The third workshop took the students over to SUBU; here, students learned about the wide variety of successful campaigns and events run by the Students’ Union, and how they champion student voice within the university community. One teacher told us that this element of the day was,

Informative and inspiring. Students experienced some practical ways to run their student council. The practical examples from the SU inspired students
Teacher – Anonymous
SUBUHayley Butler

There was an energetic buzz and palpable positivity hovering amongst the students throughout the day: heading back to school equipped with a toolkit of ideas, one student said they wanted to “take action on the things I care about”. Another remarked that they were empowered to,

Incorporate the skills learnt today in future meetings and life
Student – Anonymous

We very much look forward to seeing how this mature and responsible group of young people take action with their confident student voices!

Bryony Tallack,
SUN Project Facilitator