On the 13th and 14th of February 30 students and members of staff from the three high schools that form part of The Marches Academy Trust; The Marches School, Sir John Talbot School Whitchurch and The Grove School Market Drayton supported by members of several Rotary clubs, came together at The Marches School to participate in a 2 day ‘Peace Project’ training course led by Jean and Keith Best.

The aim of this course is to enable young people to learn the skills they need to cope with the stresses of life in the 21st century and become leaders and ‘Peace Advocates’.

Today young people are bombarded with images of what they should wear, eat, drink and say by media on a daily basis. They have difficulty making choices when faced with daily problems which may manifest itself in violent behaviour within themselves, their families and their communities.

Statistics tell us:

  • Internet and text bullying is on the increase, It starts with children aged 6-8.
  • Girls are more vulnerable to online bullying.
  • Children aged 12-15 have an average 425 ‘friends’ on social media platforms.
  • 1 in 3 young people is a victim of some form of bullying.

These problems can lead to self-harming, according to Public Health England; in 2017-18 here were 454 emergency admissions to hospital in Shropshire for ‘intentional self-harm injuries’ an increase of 39 cases compared to 2016-17.   The majority of these cases involved women and girls.

What a vision of heart breaking misery?  What manner of dire poverty? What degradation of the human spirit must we see before we stand up and actually commit to doing something about this?

The young people who attended this course have made a commitment to doing something about these issues in their schools that will hopefully have a positive impact not just in schools but across their local communities. By developing their own service projects in their schools and training successive year groups of future peace advocates.

By learning apparently simple techniques such as listening carefully and non-judgementally to what someone is saying and practicing conflict resolution skills. They have learnt to understand the need to avoid stereotypical responses to individuals, cultures and beliefs by becoming:

“Curious before they become furious”.

“Young people must become conscious of their responsibilities in the world they will be called upon to manage and should be inspired with confidence in a future of happiness for mankind” UN General Assembly Resolution 2037.

As these groups of young people return to their respective schools to put their new found skills into practice, we look forward to the roll out of their chosen service projects.  We are confident that these young people will have a positive impact on the lives of the young people in their schools and local communities today and in the future.