Children's Commissioner visits FBB programme at Bacon's College

This week, we were delighted to host the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield at one of our FBB partner schools, Bacon's College in South London. She was hosted by four of our year 8 participants at the school who spoke eloquently about their experiences of school and life in general.

The meeting was full of valuable learning for the Commissioner. There were positives and negatives, but ultimately, a sense of shared understanding that school plays an integral role on the lives of young people.

Here are 5 key reflections that the Commissioner took from her visit: 

  1. Relationships are central to empowering young people to become the best versions of themselves. 

During the visit, the Commissioner commented on how inspired she was with the boys’ sense of togetherness, and how they had harnessed their relationships to improve each other's behaviour in school. 

As one of the participants commented:

“I feel at FBB we are all like brothers. We all stick to each other, not just in FBB but in our school time. I always tell my friend I hope you’re doing good, I hope you’re not getting any detentions so that we want to hit our target to achieve our big goals, and play a full match at the end of the session.”

  1. Young people need to feel valued within the classroom to believe they can make a positive contribution.

Reinforcing a sense of positive reaffirmation in young people allows them to feel they are valued. At FBB, our asset based approach firmly places a focus on the strengths that young people bring to a classroom and their peers rather than portraying them in a negative light. Hearing the boys reflection this, the commissioner was blown away by the maturity and honesty in their responses. Another one of the participants reflected that:

“It’s really important to praise others because it builds up your positivity. Even if you felt you didn’t do well, there’s someone there to build you up… When you hear these positive things being said about you, it makes you feel good about yourself.” 

  1. The impact of losing school during the Lockdown was greatly felt by young people, but helped them to realise the powerful role it plays in their lives. 

The boys reflected on how their experience of lockdown had impacted their education and overall mental/physical wellbeing. As recognised by the Commissioner, for these boys football “is a huge motivation, for fitness and focus” with the loss of sport being a “big block” to the role it plays in developing their ability to emotionally regulate. Reflecting on this, one participant, Lukas shared that: 

“When you play (your emotions) feel much better. If you’ve had a good session that can impact on your lessons after. In the Lockdown, our sleeping patterns were messed up because we didn’t actually have to go to bed at a certain time..” 

  1. Schools need to be provided with additional support to keep their most vulnerable students in school. These educational learning opportunities that are based on their passions, give them a sense of purpose, belonging and accountability. 

Young people need an incentive in their education that motivates them to want to learn. When their passions are placed at the heart of their learning environment, there is an increased willingness to want to behave, and maintain their place in school. Inussa shared that: 

“When you have something to look forward to, you put everything into making sure you get that [opportunity]. Even when you don’t want to go to your lesson, knowing you have something to look forward to motivates you to be good in lessons”

With schools under-funded and pastoral teams cut from teaching staff, behaviour management has been an area of difficulty for schools that require more behavioural support. Whilst we understand the necessity of school exclusions for Head Teachers and local authorities, we firmly believe in alternative approaches to exclusion that keep young people in school. 

  1. Increased anxiety levels were at an all-time high amongst young people due to Covid-19. This has had a profound impact on their transition back into school

The Commissioner drew on the impact that Lockdown has had on levels of anxiety across young people in education and how this can often have a negative impact on behaviour during their transition period back in school. 

As one participant Jayden, mentioned that: 

“Coming back to school was kind of scary because loads of people had died from Coronavirus, and there were at least 1000 people in school interacting with each other. Even though we were distanced in our bubbles it was still scary coming back.” 

For many young people, not being able to be in school for 6 months hashad a negative effect on their classroom habits. The Commissioner reflected on the impact this will have had on young people’s behavioural patterns as they returned to school in September. Here are the Commissioner’s reflections on the visit as a whole: 

“The Commissioner was delighted to visit Bacon’s college and see the brilliant work of staff there, and the Football Beyond Borders team. She was grateful to hear directly from children about their experiences, and the support they received from staff and was struck by how thoughtful, self-aware and articulate they were.

Children were overwhelmingly positive about the support they received as part of the FBB programme, and the school at large. They could clearly see the good the sessions were doing for them and their fellow classmates, some of whom struggled to deal with school at times. The groups obviously provided a strong sense of community to the children there, who all spoke brilliantly about how the work with staff on the pitch and in the classroom was making a huge difference in all aspects of their lives. 

It was clear to see that the group, alongside the generally supportive environment provided by the school, had helped children immensely during the difficult period in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The Children’s Commissioner is very grateful to the children for giving up their time, and to the staff at Bacon’s College and Football Beyond Borders for facilitating the visit”

We were very thankful to the staff at Bacon’s College who had given the young people on our programme the opportunity to meet with Anne Longfield, and were very impressed by the mature reflections from the participants, on what has been a challenging year.

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