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

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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 ufa.org.uk.

Spotlight on: YoUFA – young people influencing UFA and making a difference

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There are many aspects of UFA that make it a success, but one that’s truly worthy of its moment in the spotlight is YoUFA, our thriving network of young people. One of our key objectives is to give children and young people more of a say, so that they can make their own decisions and choose what they want to learn on their own terms. We work with schools and other organisations and seek to challenge them, raise their aspirations, and offer them the chance to have a voice. YoUFA supports those goals, but also gives participants further opportunities to be the adults they want to be – and can be –  making a real difference in their community.

YoUFA was launched and developed by a group of young people involved in a UFA programme back in 2009, who while on a residential, decided that a network of young decision-makers and leaders was needed within the organisation to drive progress and growth.  YoUFA is a network of young people, who as well as getting involved in various UFA projects and programmes, help steer the direction of the UFA through the YoUFA Board and representation on the UFA’s Board of Trustees.

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This week, we say farewell to our brilliant YoUFA Youth Ambassador Leadh Woolley, who since June 2012 has helped to transform the lives of young people through her work with YoUFA. We wish Leadh all the best in her new role with Beatfreeks as their Regional Development Manager, but her work will very much live on through the YoUFA board, a dynamic group of young people who lead the network, making important decisions about its progress and growth.

“Thanks to the trust, belief and support of those at UFA, I’ve developed and enhanced so many skills, which have given me the confidence to move on to my next career pathway,” says Leadh. “I’ve been lucky to be involved in the development and co-ordination of a leadership programme and been able to meet and support so many inspiring and passionate young people. “When young people take part in a UFA programme, they are given the opportunity to join YoUFA under various levels of involvement. YoUFA is about taking the skills they’ve learned from UFA programmes and using their initiative to get involved in other youth organisations. YoUFA members represent the whole of the network and work to launch new programmes, pilot projects and develop new curriculums.”

The YoUFA network engages young people from across all of our programmes, including Step Up To Serve, the national campaign that aims to see 50% of all young people involved in social action by 2020. This, in addition to the National Citizen Service, and various ‘Lead It’ programmes such as Peer Tutoring and Young Researchers & Evaluators make UFA – and its YoUFA arm – an exciting place to be in 2015.

YoUFA board members
The YoUFA board, headed up by Rachel Clarke front, centre)

Rachel Clarke, Chair of the YoUFA Board, joined after a training as a Peer Tutor and then a Lead Learner through her school. She’s been a volunteer, a Team Leader and a Senior Team Leader on the UFA’s NCS programme and is passionate about giving young people a voice.

“It’s so important to have a board for YoUFA in order to get direct input straight from our young people,” she says. “It gives them the opportunity to make decisions on how things are run. My role has certainly helped me to grow as a person and it’s so great to see young people become leaders and finally have a voice in society. “There’s so much we want to achieve – and have already achieved. We make a real difference to young people’s lives, giving them a voice to change things around them.

“Young people who work with UFA and YoUFA take away increased confidence, a desire to make a difference, improved communication skills and perhaps most cherished of all – new friends.”