Young People making a difference…again…and again…and again!

10569005_865503300146228_1013608517055057731_nHaving a lasting legacy is one of the measures of success for any NCS project and the HandsOnEars project, which ran in Summer 2014 in Durham is a great example of this.

The team of 15 young people decided to get involved in raising awareness for hearing loss as one of the group, Lewis Oxley, has a younger brother Alfie, who has profound hearing loss.

Until Alfie lost his hearing, after a viral infection aged just 18 months, the family had little experience of hearing loss – Alfie’s disability changed all that, it’s had a big impact on the whole family.

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Lewis and his family starting using sign language to communicate with Alfie, now five, and quickly noticed the lack of awareness of what is, in many ways, an invisible disability.


Lewis’s mother Danielle started a Twitter campaign to encourage people, including a multitude of celebrities – Zoe Ball, Fat Boy Slim and the Red Arrows to name a few – to share photos of themselves with their hands over their ears to raise the profile of Deaf Awareness Week, which was a great success.


But the campaign stopped there until Lewis started NCS last summer. After talking to his team about Alfie and the HandsOnEars project the team decided that they wanted their project to raise awareness of hearing loss.

The project involved setting up a Facebook page, with a pledge from the team to get 1000 likes by the end of their two week project. The team also arranged two awareness days in Durham city centre and even wrote a song, which they performed in the market square.



Danielle said she was incredibly proud of the whole team for their hard work, which invigorated the campaign and delivered a real impact in awareness.

“I cried when I heard the song as the team had worked so hard and I was so proud of them all,” she said.

“I didn’t realise their project would have such an impact and really clearly demonstrated how much more important awareness is than fundraising.”


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By the end of the first week the Facebook page had received 1000 likes and currently stands at 2500 likes. The team handed the page over to Danielle at the end of the project and she now updates almost daily with signing videos, news about deaf awareness issues and information for people affected by hearing loss.



The legacy of the project has also continued with the creation of a video for the song, which features celebrities from soaps, reality TV and comedians, which has already had 12,000 views.


NCS is so much more than some folks realise. If you’ve got a story about how your NCS project has had a lasting legacy get in touch.

If you’d like to be part of NCS with us @ufaorg and you live in one of the areas below, then get in touch, there are still a few places left for this summer, or get in early for the next round of NCS.

Suffolk: Call Jenny Tabley on 01473 288 980

Bedford: Call Edel Bradley on 01234 365 833

Northampton: Call Sarah Arnett on 01832 731 375

Durham: Call Pauline Vipond on 01388 443 094

Accrington: Call Alice O’Rourke on 01254 471230

Milton Keynes: Call Lizzie Aigbehinmua on 01234 365 833



To read more about NCS, visit For more on UFA, visit




Are they ready for the summer of a lifetime? One call could change everything


The end of term is fast approaching, and like every year, the pressure is on to prise your son/daughter away from their screen for at least some of the six weeks holiday. How are they currently planning to spend their summer? If you think it might involve too much Facebook, Netflix or Candy Crush – we have just the thing.

At UFA, we deliver and support some fantastic programmes that truly engage young people and improve their life chances – one such programme is NCS – the National Citizen Service.

The National Citizen Service (NCS) is growing in popularity as the go-to experience for 16-17-year-olds – and it’s not just young people who are seeing the incredible rewards and benefits. Parents, guardians and teachers have also noticed that NCS has had a significant impact on their children and students.

One mum, Liz, whose son took part in a UFA NCS programme, told us of her teen:

“He walked into a part-time job at Waitrose – something I firmly believe would not have happened without his new-found confidence and personal skills… I can’t thank NCS enough. I’ve seen a young man that physically grew in stature during this short space of time. And what it’s given him has altered the course of his life for the better. Probably forever.”


To date, NCS has helped more than 130,000 16-17-year-olds in the UK to grow in confidence, make new friends, develop desirable employment skills and secure a brilliant CV. And UFA has been a huge part of that process.

Through challenging outdoor activities and community projects that make a difference, NCS gives young people the chance to develop the skills and means to change the world around them. It inspires, helps them to meet new people, experience new things – and is a fantastic contrast from the toil of exams. It really is a rewarding experience.

And the great news is, there are still a few places remaining for this summer’s UFA NCS programme! If you live in one of the areas below, simply give the relevant contact a call to secure a place. If not, head to the NCS website – there’s sure to be something happening near you, just register to find out more.

Suffolk: Call Jenny Tabley on 01473 288 980

Bedford: Call Edel Bradley on 01234 365 833

Northampton: Call Sarah Arnett on 01832 731 375

Durham: Call Pauline Vipond on 01388 443 094

Accrington: Call Alice O’Rourke on 01254 471230

Milton Keynes: Call Lizzie Aigbehinmua on 01234 365 833

Social-action-singing-in-town-centre-220914Take a look at our other blog posts about NCS:

NCS It all starts at YES for young people and their parents

Something to be truly proud of, young people, social action and UFA

To read more about NCS, visit For more on UFA, visit


‘Opportunities Without Limits’

IMG_3720Tonight Dame Christine Braddock, Chairman of Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, opened the first ever Aspire@BCH Star Awards.  The awards celebrate the contribution young people and staff have made in providing ‘opportunities without limits’ in the many inspiring projects run under the banner of Aspire@BCH.

I feel privileged to have been part of Aspire’s journey since it was a glimmer in the eye of the Education Team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. In just 18 months it has grown into an established part of BCH offering support for young people to help them gain the skills, knowledge and confidence to enter the world of work via a range of innovative programmes and opportunities.

IMG_3730UFA have been involved in several projects with BCH over the last 5 years ranging from facilitating staff training, running the annual Challenge Week for apprentices, interns and trainees and working with their Young People’s Advisory Group to train them up to be researchers. Several groups of young people have also been part of our UFA Step Up To Serve programme devising and running social action projects in and around the hospital.  So, we were delighted to be able to sponsor and present the award for Young Leader of the Year tonight at the inaugural Aspire@BCH Star Awards Ceremony.

Of course we’d like to make special mention of the 3 nominees for the UFA Young Leader award and the winner Lisa Lee. Congratulations to you all!

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There were so many worthy winners and nominees in the spotlight tonight, including staff who have been great Youth Ambassadors and gone out of their way to support young people in their departments, fantastic mentors, managers, apprentices and graduate interns.  Special mention should also go to the winners of the Chairman’s Award for ‘innovation and working with young people in a remarkable and ground breaking way’ which went to Calthorpe Vocational Centre who have worked with BCH to provide learning experiences that develop key employability and supported living skills for students with moderate/severe and ASD needs.  This is a fitting tribute to the great work Calthorpe do.

If you’re a school in the West Midlands or an NHS Trust from further afield, get in touch and check out Aspire’s website – it’s a fantastic way to engage a wide range of young people and schools in exciting work-related learning.


Sarah Burgess,

Director of Learning, UFA & rather proud Steering Group member of Aspire@BCH

Why is it so important for us to develop leadership skills in young people?


Type the word ‘leadership’ into an internet search engine, and you will be faced with 469 million results on what it means to be a leader, what defines a leader, famous leaders throughout time – in addition to thousands of quotes, tips and comments on leadership skills, and why it’s important to possess them.

Yet there is little to explain leadership to young people and why it’s so important for schools and organisations such as ourselves to develop leadership skills in young people.

We believe that leadership is about learning to lead yourself, as well as leading others. In fact, at UFA, we stress that learning to lead yourself is the basis for leading others.

We encourage young leaders to take responsibility for their own learning. They can then develop a sense of responsibility, self efficacy, and a positive mindset, coupled with planning and organisational skills, which enable them to become better learners, therefore gaining higher attainment.

Young people in today’s schools will be the next generation of leaders in the workplace, in our communities and in their families.  Because genuine leadership opportunities support transition into adulthood, foster the skills and character to be responsible citizens, and promote social and emotional well-being.

So, how do we do it?

We help young people to develop leadership skills and character by providing real-life opportunities to practice – where successes and failures are equally valuable and time is spent on self-reflection with coaching feedback from adults and other young people alike.

Understanding the process involved in leading oneself and others enables young people to be confident in their roles and to navigate their own path.

And so, young people and those who support them must be prepared for their leadership responsibilities.

We have seen so many grow in confidence and become fantastic role models for others. And they understand the responsibility this brings. They grow through their ability to transfer this learning to other experiences and it deepens their learning when they lead.

When young people in leadership roles are trained as evaluators and researchers, and they gather and analyse data about their school, everyone learns.

Our Peer Tutors and Lead Learners are equipped to co-construct learning with teachers, and as a result, we have seen teaching and learning change.

When young people are trained as Students of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow and become part of school councils and contribute to senior leadership decisions, we see school culture change.

When young people’s leadership is proactively planned and embedded as part of the school vision, valued and articulated by young people and adults alike, then it becomes part of a journey to whole school improvement, and a better place to be.

The Oxford Dictionary defines leadership as ‘The action of leading a group of people or an organisation, or the ability to do this’. At UFA, we believe every young person has the ability to lead.

They may just need a little help from us along the way…

For more on leadership skills and our Peer Tutoring programmes, visit

Going back to the classroom – a fresh set of eyes on Peer Tutoring

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It’s been a long time since I have been in a classroom for any length of time, more than two decades in fact, but in my second week at UFA as Communications Manager, I went back to Junior School.

I was lucky enough to join a group of 20 nine and ten year olds on the first day of a Peer Tutoring course being delivered by the UFA team in a Derbyshire school.

With no experience of education beyond my own, having children of school age and a family that works in schools and colleges, my perception of what Peer Tutoring is was limited, to say the least.

Put simply, I thought it was about some of the cleverest, older children teaching younger children what they knew.

It was a preconception that quickly changed after seeing the programme in action, as Peer Tutoring can indeed be that simple – but it can also be so much more.

At the school I visited, the children were drawn from a mix of classes and year groups and had been encouraged to write about why they wanted to be a Peer Tutor. For many of those selected, the motivation to get involved was far more about building their confidence and it was a theme that echoed throughout the day.

Some of the children were painfully shy, others far more outgoing and quick to express their views, but the setup of the day and the close eyes of Lula and Neil – who were delivering that day’s training – meant that very quickly everyone got an opportunity to have their voice heard.

The session quickly moved out of the classroom and into a hall, where children were encouraged to physically walk the course to understand what they would be doing for the next two days.

A quick memory name game and a quiz soon broke the ice between the children and got them thinking about what learning meant to them.

It was this look at the Peer Tutors’ own learning preferences that formed much of the focus for the day and encouraged a degree of self-awareness in the children (which was obvious many of them had never had before).

This was quickly followed by a session discussing goals, intentions and fears for the day and it was evident from the sticky notes on the board that fear of failure and again, that lack of confidence, was high on the agenda for many of the pupils.

A personality quiz to map their intelligence profiles had many of the children discussing what they were good at, but also quickly establishing that it was OK to possess a range of strengths and for everyone to be different.

The energy throughout the day was maintained by the bite-size sessions of different activities, which gave the children the opportunity to get actively involved, moving round different spaces, doing very different things.

“It’s not like a normal school day ,Miss!” was one of the comments which came up several times.

By the end of the day, the children were far more attuned to their own learning and what it would mean to share that with someone. By the time they were asked to role play peer learning, they were already taking their insights from the day, and in many cases, changing or feeding back on another’s behaviour as a result.

Looking back at the end of the day, there were some great highlights. The first session involved making name badges, where children were asked to write down an ambition, a favourite activity and a holiday, as well as their name. This quickly initiated some brilliant discussions and debates (for me, too!)

The more physical sessions – which included creating a human bar chart – stimulated the children, refocused their interest quickly and effectively and gave an energy and pace to the day, which everyone enjoyed.

There was a great deal of discussion about feeding your brain and keeping it watered, which, combined with a conversation about exercise and sleep, helped the children to explore what they could change to help their brains.

But the biggest highlights for me were the insights the children gave into what they had learnt. What they had learnt about themselves – and how their tutees might be feeling.

“You’ve got to think about the other person’s point of view and how they might be feeling, because it can be a bit scary being in Year 3,” voiced one.

“It’s really hard putting up your hand and saying you don’t know something in front of the whole class, but I might be happier saying that one to one with someone my own age,” said another.

“You don’t do all your learning at school. The world is a much bigger place than school and you learn much, much more outside it.”

“You have to be nice all the time when you are a Peer Tutor. There’s no point in being nice when you are doing it, but then being horrible the rest of the time.”

It’s these insights that make Peer Tutoring so valuable to the tutors, as well as the tutees.

By the end of the day, there was a real empathy from the children for each other-  and for the children they would be working with. It’s more than just teaching someone what you know, it’s walking in their shoes for a while and the Peer Tutors in training I saw, grasped the value of that and started to put it into action on Day One.

For more on Peer Tutoring, visit

From Special Measures to ‘phenomenal change’ in just six weeks – one school’s incredible story



As a national charity dedicated to young people’s learning, schools and their teaching staff are naturally at the heart of what we do. To date, we have trained 5,000 teachers and youth workers – a figure that is proudly etched on our latest impact report.

Of course, we know that schools are approached about hundreds of projects, programmes and initiatives every term, and we know that there is a bursting catalogue of fantastic organisations dedicated to closing the gap, supporting pupil premium, and managing the curriculum.

But it’s UFA’s successful Peer Tutoring programmes and our approach to Professional Development that are standing out amongst the crowd and making a real difference in schools. The feedback has, overwhelmingly, come from the staff room, but beyond, too – teachers, parents, pupils – and even Ofsted, are noticing a significant improvement as a direct result of our support in schools.

St Philip Howard School in Glossop is a fine example of how we implement change, ‘phenomenal’ change, in fact. And its story is one of immense importance.

Following an initial recommendation by Sally Fitton, his LA Education Advisor, Acting Head Teacher Mike Kays met with our team and agreed on a two-day training course, so he and his colleagues could fully understand how to train their pupils in Peer Tutoring. The school was already in Special Measures and was desperately seeking change.

The Peer Tutoring opportunity was then offered to Years 9 and 10, with 33 applicants signing up. These were trained and paired with tutees across Years 7 and 8, with a strong focus on homework completion, issue solving, relationship building and general engagement.

“I was hugely impressed with their history and obvious expertise, and have to say the changes already are phenomenal,” said Mike. “There’s been a massive impact on social skills, self-esteem and confidence. It’s already filtering through into the pupils’ grades.”

Using Guy Claxton’s ‘4Rs’ to evaluate training on ‘soft skills’, we saw a 10% increase in resilience, a 9% rise in resourcefulness, a 16% rise in reflectiveness and an incredible 32% increase in reciprocity, as a result of the training.

Margaret Hyde is a School Governor, and was Head of a primary feeder school to St Philip Howard…

She told us: “There was one Year 6 pupil we were particularly concerned about. He was in real danger of becoming a school refuser – withdrawn at school, in need of constant reassurance and dependent upon 1:1 help in most subjects.

“After I retired, I became school governor, so attended for Ofsted inspections. I was beyond staggered to see this particular pupil coming up the school path on his own, actually eager to get to class! He made eye contact, and came over to say hello – absolutely unheard of beforehand!

“I watched him fully participate in UFA’s activities that day – seeing him and the others working well together, and gelling as a team. His literacy and numeracy has improved, along with his confidence. For such a change in such a short space of time is nothing short of miraculous, and I fully credit the UFA Peer Tutoring programme for it.”

Pupils, meanwhile, fed back the following…

“I am better at science because of my Tutor”
“My mum has said that my social skills have improved. I think my confidence has as well.”

UFA is an organisation committed to learning. For more on our in-school programmes, visit

Graduating from #iwill and the long-lasting impact of social action

There are many, many moments that make us proud as an organisation, but seeing our Social Action Leaders graduate from our UFA #iwill programme at a ceremony in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago has to be one of our highlights.

The #iwill programme, originally named ‘Step Up To Serve’, was launched by the Prince of Wales to encourage young people to participate in more social action projects. The aim is to see 50% of all young people10-20 year olds involved in social action by 2020.

There’s no doubt that social action has a lasting impact. It brings people together, it improves our local communities and it changes the lives of those who take part in social action projects, phenomenally. But for us, it really doesn’t end with the graduation of our Leaders.

We’ve pledged to make our tailored #iwill programme available to schools as a practical, in-depth course, so that they too can facilitate social action projects within their communities.


UFA Social Action Leaders at their graduation

When we secured the government funding to run the #iwill campaign in Birmingham, we pledged to do things differently. And that, we did. We trained 15-18-year-olds to become Social Action Leaders and make a difference in their communities. And as part of their journey to becoming Leaders they had to engage younger peers on their mission – getting groups of 10-14 year-olds involved too. So our Social Action Leaders recruited younger ‘Changemakers’, thereby making this funding go that little bit further.

It was a bold move, but with our experience of working on NCS (National Citizen Service) social action projects and rolling out our Lead Learner programme, we were more than well-equipped.

We’ve seen a number of hugely inspiring projects in the last two years, from young people taking over a care home where they brought arts, crafts and laughter to residents, to the creation of internet safety leaflets for local children and various school holiday-based activities.

We’ve learnt a lot from this work and now we can help schools take their learning outside of the gates and into their local communities and really engage young people in the things that matter to them close to home.


UFA Social Action Leaders at their graduation



These Social Action Leaders summed up their experience perfectly…

“I wanted to gain management skills. I seemed to be unorganised at times so I thought it was important to obtain such skills. I felt like I just had to meet new people: stepping out of my comfort zone and interacting with young great minds!”

“My role as a social action leader has increased my confidence and I have also gained many skills such as being able to explain things a lot more efficiently. This was a truly memorable experience.”

“I just felt as though teenagers weren’t being given an opportunity to try and feel part of their community, to feel as though they had the power to make a difference, so I felt as though this would be the perfect opportunity to do so.”


Congratulations to all who took part – you should be extremely proud.

We’ll bring you more details on our in-school courses soon…