Programme boosts skills of males on Free School Meals

Male learners on Free School Meals were encouraged to focus on their skills and qualities as part of a three-part programme delivered by Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY). 

The ‘Speak Up, Your Voice Matters’ programme had a specific emphasis placed on teamwork, communication, and self-awareness. With sessions held both in school and at the University of Leeds, it offered a number of varied experiences and activities for the young people involved. 

Devising a rap 

The programme began with a session delivered in each of the participating schools: Cockburn John Charles, Farnley Academy, Appleton Academy, and Beckfoot Oakbank.  

Led by Rob Bradley of the Rap School, it encouraged the learners to consider what is important to them and how their individual attributes makes them who they are. Each learner devised a rap with a clear focus on said topics, with some even being brave enough to perform to their peers.  

Campus tour and Jamie Jones-Buchanan motivational talk 

All the learners visited the University of Leeds for a day of activities and exploration on 15 May. Sessions were delivered by Luke Hart (GHWY Outreach Officer) on teamwork and collaboration, whilst psychologist David Hodgson encouraged students and staff to explore their own personalities.  

Participants also enjoyed a campus tour led by Students Ambassadors under the watchful eye of the indefatigable Rob Goodswen (GHWY Outreach Officer). They supported learners to find clues hidden within profiles of some famous University alumni.  

The day culminated with an inspiring talk by Jamie Jones-Buchanan, the former Leeds Rhinos rugby league player turned motivational speaker. Jamie’s experiences on the field, his formative years in Bramley, and his role as ambassador for the club formed the basis of his talk. He shared personal anecdotes and valuable life lessons on resilience, the power of positive thinking, and the significance of finding what is important to oneself. 

Reflective sessions 

The third and final sessions, still ongoing, have offered learners the chance to reflect on their experiences from the preceding sessions. Via discussing their role models and completing a SWOT analysis of increasingly competitive table tennis contests between myself and Jake Jackson (GHWY Outreach Officer), learners ended the programme by setting themselves targets for how they would develop the skills they had learned over the course of ‘Speak Up’.  

Conclusion and next steps 

The programme received positive feedback from both students and staff alike. Linda Tomlinson-Askam (Head of Year 9, Beckfoot Oakbank) said the learners had been “buzzing” in the buildup to Session 3 after their time at the University of Leeds. There was also overwhelmingly positive feedback from learners on the teambuilding session at the University, with it scoring the highest in one of the Session 3 evaluation tasks.  

It has been an incredibly enjoyable process to plan and deliver this programme, and special thanks must go to Outreach Officer Farhana Begum and Project Officer Charlotte Keyworth in their pivotal roles played throughout.  

Seeing the learners grow in confidence over the course of the programme – interacting more with each other and building positive relationships with both peers and staff – has been very rewarding and testament to the welcoming and engaging environment created by all those involved in delivering ‘Speak Up’. 


Will France, GHWY Outreach Officer (Leeds College of Building) and GHWY Progression Officer (Beckfoot Oakbank)