Fitting in is one of the greatest challenges of anyone’s time at high school, and it’s what most young people seek to achieve. At 11 years old children are looking for things they have in common with other people, trying to make friends, be cool, be part of the right group. However, sometimes people can’t help but stand out; because they are physically different, or because they behave differently from other people. We worked with Harrogate High to address those feelings of exclusion and separation. We worked with Year Seven students to look at what unites us rather than divides us.
Lauren shared her experiences of life before and since her accident. She talked about how even though there have been some huge changes to her life and to the way she does things, she still really enjoys doing things that other people without the same support needs or access challenges, do.
We worked with four different classes across the day, and in each group, we explored together the things that make us different and some of the things we have in common. We also thought about how it feels when you are different from other people, or different from your friends. People talked about their lives and their feelings, some of the children are young carers and they shared how that impacts on their lives and how it makes them feel different from their friends and peers. This was a perfect opportunity for Lauren to address how people treat her differently now to how they did before she used a wheelchair; she described how that feels and how she manages that.
This meant we could explore how we treat people and how it makes them feel, so finally, we thought about what we could all do to include everyone, to not leave people out and to see the person first rather than anything that is different about them. We covered being welcoming to each other, speaking to everyone and thinking about some of the things the students might have in common and how they could open up a conversation about those things. We encouraged the pupils to talk about things they could do in school to make sure everyone feels included as well as what they could do outside of school in their communities.
The children were very chatty and liked to think about all of the questions we asked them. They all had thoughts to share, they all joined in, and they all really listened to what Lauren had to say.
The school said: “Lauren and the Opening Minds team were engaging, inspirational and thought provoking. Our Year Seven students relished the opportunity of not only learning more about road safety but also the challenges faced by those who have a disability and how these challenges are overcome.
“In the future we would like to build on this work by engaging the children who were part of the last sessions in helping to educate others in the community to see the person first.”