Training staff, ordering supplies and shadowing senior managers – school pupils from across County Durham have been trying their hands at running council services.
Children and young people trialled several roles within our council as part of the nationwide Children’s Takeover Challenge initiative, which puts young people in decision-making positions.
The event, which encourages organisations and businesses to open their doors to children and young people and listen to their views, was supported by the Children and Families Partnership.
The County Durham Children and Families Partnership, including representation from our council, the voluntary sector, police, health and schools/colleges, has a strategic responsibility for delivering better outcomes for children, young people and their families in County Durham.
Discussing care and support
Young people with first-hand experience of council care services attended a meeting of our Corporate Parenting Panel, which is responsible for the care of young people in residential homes and those who have been fostered or adopted. As part of their visit, they delivered training for elected members and council officers about the support required by children who have left care.
In a second Takeover, pupils from Villa Real School met an officer from one of the county’s NHS clinical commissioning groups. The group discussed how young people with profound Special Educational Needs and Disabilities can influence the health care services they use.
Choosing teaching resources
A third challenge event saw two schools visit the Durham Learning Resources team in Spennymoor, which loans teaching resources such as books and artworks to schools. The children from Ribbon Academy and Howletch Lane Primary carried out warehouse tasks, selecting resources to match a school’s needs, completed stock check activities and practised placing their own orders.
The children also shared their opinions with staff about how to promote reading as a fun activity, giving feedback on the service’s resources and book collections and which items they felt were most exciting.
Shadowing senior managers
Some children were given the opportunity to shadow some of our senior managers for the day.
Twenty-one-year-old Jade Hay spent time with our Chief Executive, Terry Collins to find out more about his role and responsibilities. The pair attended a County Durham Partnership Board meeting together, where Jade was able to share her views. As a result, Jade is now helping the council to set up a new youth council, where children and young people from across the county will be invited to discuss the topics which most affect them.
Alex Moore was so inspired by her visit to Pittington Primary School, where she spent time with Richard Crane, our head of education and skills, and spoke with the school’s teachers, that she is now considering pursuing a future career in education.
Influencing holiday activities
Another Takeover activity saw thirty young people from schools and youth clubs, including the eXtreme group for young people with special educational needs and disabilities, speak with council officers about its Holiday Activities with Healthy Food project.
The group described the kind of activities that they would like to be involved with during the school holidays and where they would like to be able to do them. Their views are now being used to help shape holiday activity plans for the coming year.
Trialling new skills
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for our children and young people’s services and member of the County Durham Children and Families Partnership said:
“Taking part in the Takeover event allowed the children to learn outside the classroom and to experience a work-based environment, possibly for the first time.
“It is a new opportunity for most children and one they seem to relish, offering them a chance to trial new skills, as well as skills they have practised in the classroom.
“Our staff always enjoy and learn from the Takeover events too. They often comment about the enthusiasm, energy and new ideas that the children bring to what they sometimes see as everyday tasks.”
Further information about the County Durham Children and Families Partnership.