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Developing the leaders of tomorrow

(Scroll to the second half of this film to learn more about Oxfordshire Youth)

Our funding for Oxfordshire Youth is helping to develop young leaders and boost youth mental wellbeing through a social action project focused on moving up schools. 

The Oxfordshire Youth team is using a £65,000 grant from our #iwill Fund for its school transitions project that sees young people in Year 8 use their lived experience and co-operative values to support students who’ve just moved into their school. 

This helps to build leadership and teamwork skills among older students and improves mental wellbeing for younger students who may otherwise struggle with confidence during such a major life change. 

It’s just one example of how we’re helping to deliver on Co-op’s vision of ‘Co-operating for a fairer world’. 

Hayley, Youth Skills coordinator, said: “When children move up schools, they have lots of anxieties about what it’s going to be like. The sheer size of secondary schools is daunting after being in much smaller primary schools. One of the students described it as you ‘move from being the oldest to the youngest and smallest. You feel very small’.” 

About Oxfordshire Youth 

Oxfordshire Youth works with young people aged 11 to 25 years old. Its transitions project puts those from Years 7 and 8 at the helm, empowering them to develop leadership skills as they mentor younger students.  

It also allows them to impact on their school community through co-operation and gives them a meaningful opportunity to influence decisions that matter to them. 

The project focuses on schools in communities that face more challenges and supports young people who might otherwise be unlikely to receive additional skills support. 

Co-operative values 

Hayley says co-operative values are central to their success.  

She said: “Solidarity and caring for others are particularly relevant themes for our project. We are working with young people and encouraging them to show empathy with younger students.  

“We see lovely impacts, too. One of our students was always quiet and didn’t want to speak up. But I was speechless in a session towards the end of the workshops because he was so confident delivering a presentation to others. It’s lovely to see the change from week one with improved confidence, humour and flair.” 

Flexible funding 

We’re proud that we were able to provide flexibility for Oxfordshire Youth to continue to provide services even when a third lockdown was announced in early 2021. By allowing them to adapt, we gave them freedom and the security to do what mattered most.  

Hayley said: “One thing that I’ve been so impressed with is how resilient young people have been during Covid and how they’ve taken on every challenge, including online learning, ‘bubbles’ and less extracurricular activities. They’re still thriving and wanting to do things. 

“Flexible funding from the Co-op Foundation has been really helpful as they team allowed us change the timeframes of the project. We also had flexible working to meet the needs of individual schools, which was beneficial. You never feel like you’re out on a limb when you’re working with the Co-op Foundation.” 

Keep reading 

This story was written as part of our 2021 digital Impact Report. Read more stories from this report, sign up to our blog to find out first about future funding or donate here to help us continue to build fairer and more co-operative communities. 

You can also read how the Co-op is working with #iwill to support young people’s skills and employment projects through the Peer Action Collective

iwill lockup - correct version

The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to £54 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities. We’re acting as a match funder and awarding grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund. The #iwill Fund supports the aims of the #iwill movement – to make involvement in social action a part of life for young people, by recognising the benefit for both young people and their communities.   

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