Every year at Medway Youth Council we hold an Annual Conference, which grows out of a consultation we carried out with young people from across Medway. Invitations are sent out to every school inviting pupils between the ages of eleven and eighteen (years seven to thirteen), inviting a small number of students as well as accompanying staff to attend the conference. This year’s conference was held at the Corn Exchange, Rochester.
Our conference aimed to both consult and educate young people on the subject of bullying. In particular we explored the causes and, to some degree, opened up discussion as to how we should deal with bullying. We also aimed to understand whether it is better to punish or support bullies and how we can support victims. In order to achieve this we aimed to listen extensively to young people’s experiences in order to understand the scope of problem. At the same time we wanted to help young people develop greater resilience and encourage them to support victims and become more proactive in tackling bullying in their schools and communities.
Our Annual Conference for 2017 was titled “The Bully: Understanding Both Sides” and dealt with the issue of bullying. This was something we felt was an important subject, given its relevance to the lives of many young people in Medway and the effect of the internet and social media. The conference was well attended, with over one-hundred and seventy students from a range of secondary and specialist schools in Medway. The day included three workshops, each based around different aspects of the topic. These focused largely on how we should tackle bullying and how it should be treated – where can young people go for help? Who should be helping? Why do people bully? Should we punish or help bullies? These were followed by a Q and A after lunch with a panel of relevant professionals addressing questions from students on bullying.
Broadly, we felt the conference proved to be a huge success providing us with a wide array of opinions. We received conclusive and reliable responses from young people on the topics presented in the workshops. We now have a better understanding of the problem of bullying as well as valuable feedback which we intend to use to influence many of our actions with regards to our anti-bullying campaign over the course of the coming year. At the same time many of the young people who attended the conference said that they found that it was overall a thought-provoking and enjoyable day and indeed the majority of feedback we received from young people was positive. Our conference has allowed us to grasp the specific issue of cyber-bulling, something that our campaign will focus on addressing.
In response to our conference we are going to be running a campaign to directly address the issues discussed. We have put forward the following further actions:
- MYC will produce literature around bullying, which will focus around the conference workshops to be shared on our website and through schools.
- MYC will work with schools and Head teachers to produce a model anti-bullying policy which we will then encourage schools to adopt.
- MYC will adapt the workshops provided at the annual conference into a series of resources which will be offered to schools.
- MYC will work with Anti-Bullying Ambassadors across the Medway towns on their campaigns surrounding bullying.
As a Youth Council we will also be presenting our report to the Medway Council Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee in January 2018, which will allow us to tackle these points directly with decision makers.