The night was filled with stories from our partners and thought-provoking discussions about how we can keep moving the needle by redefining what success means for our young people in the future and creating a more fair and effective education system.
I was particularly moved by the words of 17-year-old Jaiden Corfield (such an inspiration!) who talked passionately about our project partners at RECLAIM - a youth leadership and social change organisation that creates campaigns to amplify the voices of disadvantaged young people and prepare them for leadership roles. Jaiden spoke openly and honestly about his tough upbringing in Manchester and how RECLAIM helped him to find his voice, realise his worth and become a social activist:
“The world seems to swallow you up and you need to be reminded why you’re here and that you are worthy.”
As I read through the impact report, I was heartened by progress being made across our three key focus areas: increasing agency to put young people in the driving seat of change; expanding opportunity so students from all backgrounds are given an equal chance to thrive; and involving all areas of society in education.
Through the work of our nine project partners, Big Change has reached over 700,000 young people; 66,000 teachers and adults; and nearly 600 communities around the world. I know I can speak on behalf of my fellow Big Change founders, when I say how proud we are of the Big Change team. Their drive and dedication, mirrored by our project partners, is bringing about widescale change for the benefit of all young people in the UK.
While these numbers are impressive, it’s when you hear the human stories from people like Jaiden, that the impact really hits home. Another wonderful story from one of our project partners came from Jeremy Pentreath who works with Voice 21 to create oracy and early language development programmes.
Jeremy recounted how a six-year-old student of the programme recently stood up during an assembly of over 400 students - unprompted - and spoke about the importance of world peace. You could almost touch the pride glowing from Jeremy – it gave us all goosebumps! Given that, by the age of three, an underprivileged child will have heard 30 million less words than their peers it’s so encouraging to hear how these programmes are literally helping kids find their voices.
Every time the Big Change community gathers together the overwhelming feeling is one of hope and steely determination to bring about positive change. It has never been more important to keep fighting to create an education system that sets kids up to thrive in life, not just exams. As my friend, Karl Lokko, summed up beautifully at the end of the evening: “It’s going to take every single child’s potential, so every single child is essential.”