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Empower, educate and inspire: how to support students to make change happen

Know your rights, you have a right to be safe at work and to work free from sexist comments, sexual harassment and abuse.

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It's Not OK

Campaign toolkit aims to help NEU members take the steps needed to prevent sexism and sexual harassment.

Prevent sexism & sexual harassment

Welcome to the It’s Not OK toolkit: a set of briefings, posters, online conversations and lesson plans to help NEU members organise to prevent sexism and sexual harassment in their schools.

We recommend that you use this tool alongside the ‘Whole School Approach to Preventing Sexism and Sexual Harassment’ poster which outlines the ten elements to a whole school approach.

Why engage with students?

“By empowering our young students through our equality group we have grown the agency and urgency of everyone in the school to make powerful change for good. Students are able to challenge inequality with confidence which they will take with them into adulthood.”
Member, West Sussex

Now is the time for change for young people

Women and girls have been organising for centuries to speak up for their rights.

Discrimination against women and girls has been built into societies across the world throughout history, with the needs of men and boys usually being put first and shaping how society functions.

Not all inequality is immediately visible – violence against women and girls is often hidden, pay differences can be kept tucked away behind different job descriptions, the language that tells us we need a ‘big strong man’ to lift things and a girl to ‘tidy up after art class’ are so day-to-day they feel normal. The global pandemic shone a spotlight on gender inequality (and many other inequalities) as we saw women in the global north juggling childcare, elder care, hygiene management, food supplies and work. And we saw a horrifying increase in violence and abuse as women were trapped at home. Women and girls in the global south faced similar issues plus loss of education and income, increases in violence and abuse, and as schools closed we saw many girls enter early marriages and increases in teenage pregnancy. One thing the pandemic told us is that there is still a long way to go, but now is the time for change.

Changing the status of women and girls in any society needs to start with small steps. It will need to look at the culture around women and girls (and non-binary students) and how others treat them and respect their rights. Sometimes these first steps might seem small, but they always contribute to a bigger picture.

Our role as staff is to help students

  • recognise the problem and make it visible.
  • understand why and how it happens.
  • show that change is possible.
  • support young people to be the catalyst for change and challenge the status quo.

Sexual harassment: what’s happening in schools?

Through the research report It’s just everywhere: a study on sexism in schools and how we tackle it the NEU found that:

  • over a third (37 per cent) of female students at mixed-sex schools have experienced some form of sexual harassment at school.
  • almost a quarter (24 per cent) of female students at mixed-sex schools have been subjected to unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature while at school.
  • almost one in three (32 per cent) teachers in mixed-sex secondary schools witness sexual harassment in their school on at least a weekly basis. A further 36 per cent say they witness it on a termly basis.
  • sexism and sexual harassment in schools has been normalised and is rarely reported:
    • only 14 per cent of students who have experienced sexual harassment reported it to a teacher.
    • just six per cent of students who have experienced or witnessed the use of sexist language in school reported it to a teacher.
    • over a quarter (27 per cent) of secondary school teachers say they would not.
    • feel confident tackling a sexist incident if they experienced or witnessed it in school.
  • Ofsted’s research with girls¹ found that 79 per cent of girls said that sexual assault of any kind happened ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’.
    • 68 per cent of girls said that they felt pressured to do sexual things that they did not want to a lot or sometimes.
    • 64 per cent said unwanted touching happened a lot or sometimes.
    • 92 per cent said sexist name-calling happened a lot or sometimes.
    • 81 per cent said rumours about their sexual activity happened a lot or sometimes.
    • 80 per cent said that unwanted or inappropriate comments of a sexual nature happened a lot or sometimes.
  • Ofsted also found that online or on social media²:
    • 88 per cent of girls said being sent pictures or videos they did not want to see happened a lot or sometimes
    • 80 per cent of girls said being put under pressure to provide sexual images of themselves happened a lot or sometimes
    • 73 per cent said pictures or videos that they sent being shared more widely without their knowledge or consent happened a lot or sometimes
    • 59 per cent of girls said that being photographed or videoed without their knowledge or consent happened a lot or sometimes
    • 51 per cent of girls said having pictures or videos of themselves that they did not know about being circulated. happened a lot or sometimes

¹ Ofsted (10 June 2021) Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges

² Ofsted (10 June 2021) Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges

The Department for Education (DfE) has said that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are three times more likely to be abused than their peers³.

Additional barriers can sometimes exist when recognising abuse in children with SEND. These can include:

  • assumptions that indicators of possible abuse such as behaviour, mood and injury relate to the child’s disability without further exploration
  • the potential for children with SEND being disproportionately impacted by behaviours such as bullying and harassment, without outwardly showing any signs
  • communication barriers and difficulties, for example SEND children may have been taught the wrong words for body parts.

Ofsted’s report (2021) on sexual harassment says that children and young people with special education needs may be less likely to report sexual harassment. Any reports of abuse involving children with SEND will therefore require close liaison with the designated safeguarding lead (or deputy) and the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo) or additional learning needs co- ordinator (ALNCo) in Wales.

This toolkit takes the evidence from our past research, It’s just everywhere, and puts it into action.

For any change in school life to be meaningful, it must involve young people so that they feel empowered to think and act differently.

When students discuss their experiences and the experiences of their peers and take ownership of the challenges, they are often the experts in identifying what needs to change in their social groups. By involving them from the start, we as staff can empower the leaders of the future to take responsibility and ownership of the changes we all want for happy, equitable and safe schools.

³ L Jones et al (2012) Prevalence and risk of violence against children with disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. The Lancet (July 2012) in Department for Education (September 2021) Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges: Advice for governing bodies, proprietors, headteachers, principals, senior leadership teams and designated safeguarding leads.

Ofsted (10 June 2021) Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges (England)

 Department for Education (September 2021) Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges: Advice for governing bodies, proprietors, headteachers, principals, senior leadership teams and designated safeguarding leads

Setting up a student group: for getting started

Identify your group. Start by just chatting to people around you. Is anyone else interested in what interests you? Is anyone frustrated by inequality and keen to see change? Are there existing groups that you can work with? Talk about your intentions and map those you come across who might support you. You will often find people want to get involved. Have chats over coffee, in the staff room etc as it’s good to know what people feel is unjust and what motivates them. The journey to being an activist isn’t done overnight, so take your time to understand what the bigger picture looks like.

Organising model

A classic organising model takes us from anger 🡒 to hope 🡒 to action

Identify need. The more you can evidence the need for change, the easier it is to start the conversation.

What are the issues in your school? You could start by identifying the incidences of sexism and sexual harassment that occur. To find that information you could look with your safeguarding team or pastoral leads at safeguarding data and records of relevant incidents, for example sexist language, upskirting, sexual harassment.

Think about the needs of your specific students, for example their demographics, their ages and faiths, and what they feel they need.

It’s useful to know that Ofsted says school and college leaders should create a culture where sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are not tolerated, and where they identify issues and intervene early to better protect children and young people.

In order to do this, they should assume that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening in their setting, even when there are no specific reports, and put in place a whole school approach to address them.

You might want to conduct an anonymous survey of students to find out what they feel is going on in school. Make sure your senior leadership team (SLT) is informed about your plans and what you will do with the results, and that it supports the decision to go ahead. In particular, think carefully about the risk of a serious incident being reported anonymously.

Get leadership on board. First look into what your leadership is doing to tackle the issue of sexism and sexual harassment in school. Are there any policies already in place?

Are teachers and students aware of how to identify and report incidences of sexism and sexual harassment? If you can show your SLT that you are contributing to the policies and goals of the school, it is more likely to support your aims.

Speak to your SLT and explain why you feel a youth group is needed and share any evidence you have. Most of all get feedback from students about what they want; this should be the key reason a group happens. Responding to student experience is paramount.

Be led by students. If students want to form a group or need help to hold meetings etc, respond to their needs. They may need support to identify what kind of group they want, whether it is a feminist group open to all, or a group exclusively for girls and non-binary students. Boys may also want a space for boys and young men. You can read more about this in Working with boys and young men to prevent sexism and sexual harassment.

Offer students support to identify what would be most beneficial. There is an enormous amount of value in creating a safe space for girls (or girls and non-binary students) to talk about sexism and gendered social norms.

Be inclusive. Tackling sexism and sexual harassment begins by looking at gender stereotypes and gender discrimination. But other forms of discrimination also exacerbate sexism and sexual harassment. If a student belongs to a group that experiences discrimination such as racism or homophobia, sexual harassment can feel different for them. Being inclusive does not mean overlooking the fact that sexism disproportionately impacts girls and women, as Ofsted states in its report on sexual harassment.

“Although anyone can experience sexual harassment and violence, research indicates that girls are disproportionately affected. For example, 90 per cent of recorded offences of rape in 2018/19 of 13- to 15-year-olds were committed against girls. In the past year, girls aged between 15 and 17 reported the highest annual rates of sexual abuse for young people and children aged 25 and younger.”

However, we need to think about how sexism and sexual harassment happens for different groups of students. This means that we need to think about how sexual harassment impacts Black girls, disabled girls, lesbian and bisexual girls, trans and non-binary students.

Some boys, especially those who identify as members of the LGBT+ community, will have experienced sexual harassment as well. Support your group to be a safe and inclusive space for students.

When considering how inclusive your group is, remember disability. For example, in the case of physical disabilities, is your group easy to hear about and join? Is it easy to actually get to the room? Could you make adjustments to make it more welcoming? For students with SEND, check with the specialist staff in your school about the tried and tested adjustments you can make to include them. Then ensure you use clear language and avoid euphemisms.

Ask who takes up space. Consider who takes up the space in the group. How do you encourage girls (who tend to speak less in mixed classes) to take up a fair share of the speaking time? How do you make sure that students can share and plan action on different forms of harassment so that Black students and or LGBT+ students, get a chance to take part equally. Talking generally about what is happening for girls in the school is a good way in. You can try out our sample session, A woolly conversation, at the end of this paper.

Be prepared. These groups are not designed to be reporting spaces, and this should be reflected in your safe space agreements with students and staff. You will need your reporting and safeguarding mechanisms in place – make sure your designated safeguarding lead is aware of the group so they can also be prepared.

Remember the power of delegating. Mobilising for change is hard work, and it is a lot to do to sustain momentum on top of the workload of general teaching. Look for colleagues that will support you. Engage student leaders from all year groups that have them, but also look for those students from older year groups who may be keen to help and take on some responsibility.

Look after yourself. Your energy to support young people will inspire them to create change but if this works drains you, everyone loses out. Set boundaries for yourself, set limits on the time you allocate to the group, surround yourself with people who will support and energise you, and help you relax after sessions. You are important and worthy of care, and you should treat yourself as such.

Ofsted (10 June 2021) Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges

Ofsted (10 June 2021) Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges

Case study

Supporting students to organise equality groups

We heard from a NEU member who teaches in a secondary school in West Sussex and co- ordinates the student equalities groups. They have separate groups for various equality elements, including girls, boys, race, LGBT+ and disability. These small groups come together once a term to meet and discuss their needs. The teacher then holds one main equality team meeting biweekly.

She has found that the smaller, topic-specific groups offer a more comfortable space for students to have conversations that they might not feel as willing to share in the larger group.

She has a staff member from those equality strands to support each group.

As she explains: “I’m not Black so I have a Black teacher support the meetings. I’m not male so when I meet with the boys a male teacher supports the meetings with me and the same with the LGBT+ group etc.”

Top tips for creating a safe space for students

Create it together. Invite the young people to put forward their ideas and rules for a safe space. You may want to prompt them with ideas including:

  • respect others.
    • respect the opinions of others.
    • treat others with kindness.
    • respect that some people in the room may have had negative or traumatic experiences and need particular care and thoughtfulness.
    • you are entitled to have an opinion but if someone is speaking from their experience, it is important to listen.
  • respect yourself.
    • if you don’t understand you can ask – your point is worth saying, don’t silence yourself.
    • if you need a break, take it.

It is not a place for disclosure. Make this clear to students at the start and explain this is not a place to talk about the names of people they know. Anonymous examples may be useful.

Be clear on reporting. Make sure early on in the life of the group that all students know how to report anything that concerns them and check you have your safeguarding and reporting mechanisms in place. Have links to local support and specialist groups on hand.

It’s OK to not know, and OK to ask questions.

Value inclusion and different experiences. We are all here to learn, and we all have something to offer.

Acknowledge these topics can be difficult. Some people may get upset about some topics. Discuss with the students that it is OK if that happens, and that it is OK to need to step out of a session. Agree a safe place or teacher they should go to that is within school guidelines.

Make sure the topic for each meeting is set in advance. This allows any young people who feel nervous about a topic to be in control of their decision about whether to attend. Strong facilitation is needed to keep the topic for each session clear and focussed, and to guide discussion so that it remains a safe space.

Age and stage. Carefully consider the age and educational and developmental stage of students to gauge what topics are suitable and to what depth to take those topics. You may need to divide the meeting into different age groups, or you may need to encourage older students to take a conversation into a separate group.

Is it accessible? This applies to disabilities but is also good to apply to culturally appropriate spaces as well.

Do we share? Agree with the group what can and cannot be shared by other members. Be very clear that these agreements include being online. If the school permits communication via social media, make it clear to students that rules about confidentiality and ways of communicating apply to communications offline and online.

Use ‘I’ statements as much as possible to state your reactions or your experiences. This helps to avoid comments sound as though they are criticising others when challenging them. For example, saying “when you were speaking, I felt confused about what was the right thing to do” rather than “your presentation was confusing”; or “I’ve decided I don’t agree with your point” rather than “you are wrong”.

Your role as staff. Be clear with students that you have a professional role and a role as a staff member to uphold the behaviour and expectations of the school, and that applies in the safe space. Your role to help structure the group is really important. The topics discussed could be very sensitive so it is important that a skilled facilitator mediates the sessions. If your group is popular you could expect quite a few students and that can be hard work – keep inviting others in to support you.

And finally, everyone’s safety comes first. If a young person thinks they have made a mistake or broken the safe space rules, be clear that the priority is that they are safe and can tell a trusted adult.

Top tip

Consider if any of the older students could act as mentors to younger students, for example to help them prepare a presentation for the group.

Great! I’ve organised a students against sexism group.

What do I actually do in a session?

Take students on an organiser’s journey:

  • Create a shared sense of understanding about sexism and sexual harassment.
  • Recognise and share a sense of injustice.
  • Realise a sense of agency (I, and we, can do something about this).
  • Own the resolution (what is the change I want and how will I get it?).

Goal setting. Aim to set a purpose for your group. Ask students what they really want to get out of a feminist/girls/preventing sexism group? Do they want to campaign? Do they want to discuss and understand? Where do they want to be at the end of term or school year?

Creative and energising. Use arts, music, theatre – you name it. Talk about what Beyoncé is doing, what is everyone watching and listening to, create reels and animation – the sky is the limit.

Varying learning and participation models. Just as you approach classroom learning, in student groups everyone learns differently so try to vary the type of content. For example, one session could be a talk from a student, or watching and discussing a film. Another week could be drawing ideas onto paper about a certain subject so that the learning methods vary.

Create a term plan. Agree with your group what you will all do and make a term planner – as much as possible encourage students to lead the ideas. Planning can be part of the bonding and learning process as it will require setting out issues, negotiating and being organised. Can the students create an advert to attract more members for the group or a create a termly planner on PowerPoint? These are great skills for life as well.

Share a collective understanding of sexism and sexual harassment. Explore what these words mean to individual young people and look at how sexual harassment is linked to power and inequality in gender relationships. Also explore how sexual harassment may affect various identities differently. Talk about how this applies in school, but how it could also apply to a workplace or on the street.

Campaigns. What is the change young people want to see? A key skill in campaigning and finding resolutions is aiming for a change that is achievable and effective. Your role may be to help the students formulate a campaign and a resolution. The sample sessions Topic Trees and What makes a good campaigner or organiser? at the end of this document are useful first steps in campaigning.

When looking at resolutions you can encourage students to use the SMART tool:

Is the change you want to see

  • specific.
  • measurable.
  • achievable.
  • realistic.
  • timed (achievable within a reasonable time frame)?

The history of campaigns and unions. There are some incredible stories out there about how people have organised for change. Such stories can really inspire young people. The NEU has a great set of materials about the Women Chainmakers, as well as the Black History Month education pack and role model posters.

Learning in a safe space. There may be times when students want the space to explore an issue in greater depth or to ask questions about a topic. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. Encourage students to run their own sessions, for example what can the students teach each other? Can they share stories about their culture or faith, or discuss an inspiring book they have read?

Find out about feminism. This could involve learning about feminist activism around the world and the history of inspiring women. It could include myth-busting about feminism if some young people have negative stereotypes that need addressing.

Linking to other student bodies. This could be their student union, a participation group or student reps. If you are part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) or linked to other schools locally, could students join up across schools? This is a great exercise in mapping out who can support you and who will help you.

Build skills for life. Speaking up and taking part in democratic processes are skills for life for students. Make sure there is time for students to learn skills such as public speaking, voting, respectfully arguing a point or disagreeing.

Listening and engaging students. A group session is a perfect way to consult students – see some of the ideas below on making that meaningful.

Top tip

Safeguarding regulations are as relevant to student groups as they are anywhere else in the school. Make sure you are clear with students about what you can keep confidential and what must be shared with other professionals.

Case study

An NEU member teaches A-level social science in a secondary school in Newcastle upon Tyne. She facilitates the Schools Against Sexism research action group and runs a thriving feminist society of 30-40 students.

“Initially I started the group with no specific plan in place with regards to structure. It really didn’t work as the students needed something to focus their discussion. I passed around a piece of paper and asked the students to write down what they wanted to discuss and who wanted to volunteer to run that particular session.

“Topics included the skincare industry, women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, women and video games, toxic masculinity, the importance of pronouns, mental and physical disability, menstruation, pretty privilege, tribal marking, feminism and race and women in religion.”

Top tips on meaningfully engaging, listening and responding to students

Create a safe space for students to participate; they need to feel safe and confident before they can speak up.

Set clear expectations of what you can offer the students. Be honest with them about what is possible and where you have limitations, but also support ambitious goals. For example, will Harry Styles play a gig at your school? No not likely. But would the local BBC cover your project? Yes they might, give it a try.

Are you prepared to change? Are you willing to do what students request? For participation to be meaningful, there must be a commitment to change. Genuinely responding to young people may mean doing something that you wouldn’t chose yourself.

Talk to your colleagues to ensure they feel comfortable and willing to make changes based on feedback. If the young people are looking for change to be applied across a school setting, it may need to be either through a school-wide policy from a senior leader or, if the change comes from teaching staff, it may need to be well communicated across the staff body. Plan in advance how any suggested changes will need to be shared and taken forward, and get others on board to support you.

Make it fun. Arts, drama and creativity are great ways to gather student feedback and empower them. Agenda by Cardiff University,, has a wide range of creative tools for educators to use.

How are you listening to vulnerable groups? Do girls need a specific space to speak up? Do LGBT+ students need space? Are the spaces safe for students of colour to speak about racism? Are the spaces accessible if a student has SEND? How can you build anti-sexism to be a common value across your school?

Never underestimate the power of youth voices. As an adult you can advocate for young people, but that advocacy will always be more powerful if it comes directly from them. Look at how you can use any platforms you can access to put forward a young person’s voice.

Use the expertise of your staff. You will have a huge range of talent, passion and ideas across your staff body about how to tackle and talk about sexism. Draw others in and make this a shared responsibility.

Sample session: A woolly conversation

Aim: to support students identify who takes up the most space when speaking, and to support them to self-manage that space.

Equipment: a long ball of wool.

Inclusion: if a student cannot hold the wool, consider how they might fix it to a chair or table etc safely. If a student cannot catch, encourage their neighbours to catch the wool for them.

Be cautious if you think there are students who have been sexually harassed and want to say so – this isn’t a time for safeguarding reporting, but it is fair that they have an appropriate amount of time to speak.

  1. Sit the students in a circle.
  2. Take one end of the ball of wool and hold it tight, introduce the session and explain the aims.
  3. Every time a student wants to speak, they need to wait until the current speaker throws the ball of wool to them. When they speak, they need to hold onto a piece of wool, creating a line of wool from the previous speaker to them, and then another line of wool from them to the next speaker. They must not let go of that piece of wool for the whole session.
  4. When they finish speaking, they need to throw the ball to someone with their hand up. If the student wants to speak again, they must hold the wool in two places, creating another line from them to the previous and next speakers. If someone is speaking a lot, the lines will build a visual guide to who has and who has not spoken.
  5. You can pause the conversation from time to time and ask the group to reflect: “Is there anyone who hasn’t had a chance to speak?” You can also invite any confident and regular speakers to reflect on how many times they hold the wool.

Sample session: Speedy subjects

Aim: to quickly draw out ideas from young people about what they feel are the issues on a subject.

Equipment: flipchart paper, multi-coloured pens, a timer that makes a noise, optional stickers.

Time: variable, from 20 minutes (very brief) to a full lesson.

Number of students: groups of eight upwards, but time and equipment will vary.

Access: requires mobility round a classroom, and ability to write independently or with support. If a student cannot move easily, move the papers instead.

Room set-up: spread tables evenly across the room so it is easy to stand round them, four or five flipcharts spread out on tables, each with a collection of pens. There must be enough pens for all students.

If you are short of time, write four or five themes, one in the centre of each flipchart, using colours and decoration. Words you could use include:

school uniform / science and maths / toilets / in the corridors / in lessons


at school / doing sports / out and about / socialising / with my family/carers


health / violence and safety / pay and work / education / the media and online

  1. Explain to the group that this session is designed to quickly catch a snapshot of what they feel about a particular topic, such as gender equality in school or sexual harassment. Check where your group is at and their maturity to manage these questions and judge what level of questions is age-appropriate. Explain what will be done with the feedback, for example: “The top topics will tell me what themes we should have for each session.”
  2. Ask the group to split into four or five smaller groups and to stand round the tables in their groups.
  3. Set the question. This could be a question the students have already agreed, or it may be one you would like to explore with them. For example, where does sexism exist in school and what does sexist behaviour look like?
  4. Explain that groups will have three minutes to write down any thoughts, encourage them to write lots and to go for whatever is in their head (as long as it isn’t hurtful to others). They need to write about things linked to the theme on the paper. After three minutes you set off an alarm/whistle/bell and everyone moves round and starts again on the next flipchart.

Sample session: Problem poplars and solution sycamores – it is time for Topic Trees

Aim: to explore a problem the students want to address, identify the causes and impacts of the problem, and set out the solutions they want to focus on.

Equipment: flipchart paper, multi-coloured pens and Post-its or digital equivalents.

Time: at least 30 minutes, an hour is better.

Number of students: this can be done with two or three students or you can split the students into groups of approximately six, but time and equipment will vary.

Access: requires ability to write on a flipchart or digital tool and to write independently or with support.

Room set-up: ideally a large space with two or three flipcharts stuck together to make a large drawing space.

  1. Get students to form groups of about six – they all need to be able to discuss and listen with each other comfortably.
  2. Ask them to start by draw just a few lines to show a tree, outline a few large deep roots, a thick bark and the outline of a few branches at the top.Now ask them to add the topic they want to consider to the trunk of the tree, for example sexual harassment at school. They might want to add some statements that describe the problem to the trunk such as sexist banter, groping or sharing images. As part of the safe space setting for this session, it’s good to reiterate that this is not a place for disclosing any incidents.
  3. Then ask the group: “What causes these issues? Why does this issue exist?” For sexual harassment they might say, “because older people teach younger men”, “because boys think they can get away with it” or they may go for the big picture and say something like “patriarchy”. Explain that these causes need to be drawn in as the roots of the tree – they are the root causes. Make sure the students have enough time to come up with several causes.
  4. Next ask the group, what is the impact of that issue? They should consider the impact on young people like themselves and their peers. You can use prompts such as: “How might sexual harassment make a person think, feel and act?” Encourage the group to also consider how it might impact others and, in particular, to think about groups that face other forms of discrimination already. The impact could be “girls don’t feel safe to go on the school bus”, for example. The impacts should be drawn onto the branches of the tree.
  5. If you have time, encourage groups to look at each other’s Topic Trees and give constructive feedback, for example: “Are there any impacts you have not considered?” “Have you created a clear picture of the problem?”
  6. Now it is time to look at solutions. Ask students to go back to the causes they originally wrote down. For every cause, ask them to think of a solution that could fix it. It can be fun to draw these positive solutions as blossom or fruit on the tree. Encourage students to go for it with their ideas – (almost) nothing gets rejected at this stage. Some examples could be “we need to create some art to tell them how we feel about that” or, if the problem is “because they think they can get away with it”, perhaps the solution is “we need clearer rules about behaviour in school”. If the young people identify big picture issues, encourage them to keep breaking down the ideas until they reach something more manageable.
  7. The students now have some exciting solutions. Invite them to discuss which solution they would like to take forward. If different groups have different ideas, you may want to take this to another session where they can debate and vote on solutions (great citizenship skills).

Sample session: What makes a good campaigner or organiser?

Aim: to develop ideas with young people about what skills and behaviours are needed to make a good campaigner.

Equipment: flipchart paper, multi-coloured pens, Post-its or digital tools that do the same thing.

Time: variable from 20 minutes.

Number of students: discussion groups need to be manageable so between three and six but the number of groups can be large if there is space for them to talk together.

Access: requires mobility to reach flipchart paper and the ability to write independently or with support.

Room set-up: two flipcharts joined together on walls or floor with plenty of space between the papers.

  1. Start by explaining to students that they are going to create a good campaigner or organiser, and that each group is going to explore what that good campaigner does. Start by asking the group what the words organiser and campaigner mean, and why this group might want to look at campaigning skills. Ask the group to name some famous campaigners – some examples you could use are:
    • Greta Thunberg, who campaigns for awareness and action on climate change.
    • Malala Yousafzai, who campaigns for girls’ education and the right for girls to go to school safely.
    • Marcus Rashford, the footballer who challenged the Government because he felt they were not offering enough support for people who needed free school meals during the pandemic.
    • Sandi Toksvig, the TV presenter who set up the new Women’s Equality Party because she felt that the existing politicians and political parties did not do enough for women’s rights and to end violence against women.
    • Laura Coryton, who found out that period products were being taxed as if they were luxury goods, so she ran a successful campaign to remove the so-called Tampon Tax.
  2. Ask the group what they feel is so special about those people and remind them to keep their responses in mind for later on.


If the group is struggling to understand what campaigns are, you may want to make that the focus of the session and move to the exercise below at a later point. You can judge the pace that your group needs to take. Once you feel the group has grasped the idea of campaigns, explain that they are going to create a good campaigner in small groups and then feed back to the bigger group.


This next section will explore aspects of what makes a good campaigner. It contains eight options but using them all could be a bit repetitive for some students so pick out the elements that you want the group to focus on.

  1. Once you feel that the group has grasped the idea of campaigns, explain that they are create a good campaigner in small groups, and then feed back to the wider group.
  2. Divide the group into smaller groups of three to six students.
  3. Ask students to draw a figure on their large flipchart paper. They now need to add some features to this figure – these could include:
    • eyes – vision for change
    • ears – listening to others
    • mouth – what that person says
    • brain – what facts and evidence that person uses
    • heart – how they feel
    • hands – one hand reaching out, the other holding something up, we don’t know what that is yet. The hand reaching out represents who they bring with them and how; the hand lifting something up represents whose voice the campaigner lifts up.
    • feet – taking a break and walking.
  4. Start by asking them to focus on the character’s eyes – this is where the campaigner’s ’vision’ sits, and no, this isn’t about looking out of the classroom window. This is about what kind of world they want to see and where they want to get to in their campaign. Revisiting one of the famous campaigners will help here, for example: What is Greta Thunberg’s vision? What change would she like to see in the world? Is she thinking about her home country (Sweden) or beyond that? Answer: No, she thinks about the climate of the whole world, and she targets world leaders to make the changes. Her vision could be a world where global leaders have committed to stop polluting and to burning less fossil fuel so that they are no longer harming the world’s climate.

Encourage the group to write down what is important about the campaigner’s vision and why a good campaigner needs one. Ask them to think about some of the visions this particular group could have.

  • ears – ask the students to write down why they think that listening to others is important. You could ask them why it is important to listen to people who have been sexually harassed.
  • mouth – ask the students why it is important to think about what we as campaigners might say. You could ask them about saying the wrong thing and prompt them to explore mildly sexist or derogatory language.
  • brain – what evidence and facts should a campaigner have? Ask the students to discuss where they could find good, reliable sources of facts and information.
  • heart – ask the group how they feel about an issue, what feelings they need to be a campaigner. You could ask them to think about how Marcus Rashford felt when he heard that, during lockdown, some students didn’t have enough food to eat.
  • holding hands – ask students to consider who they could work with or who they could approach to bring into a campaign. For example, Malala Yousafzai works with her father, a staff team, education experts in lots of different countries and governments from around the world
  • Whose voice do you lift up? Ask the students to consider Greta Thunberg’s work. She often speaks up herself, but now that student climate strikes are popular, lots of other students speak up as well and she often joins their meetings to attract attention and help them get heard.
  • feet – ask students: “How should a campaigner rest and take a break (walk away)?”
  1. Once the groups are happy that they have filled in each of the areas, invite them to give feedback about their good campaigner, if they want to.

Additional exercise if you have time

  1. If you have time, or in a subsequent session, encourage the group to do a personal drawing of themselves as a campaigner. Students who normally need support will need help to draw the character and their features and to label them.
  2. Go back through each of the characteristics and ask the student to now write about themselves and think about:
    • their vision for change
    • how they listen to others
    • what they say about the topic
    • what facts and evidence they have
    • how they feel
    • who they hold hands with
    • whose voice they lift up
    • how they will rest and take a break.
  3. At the end, invite the students to share their personal images, if they want to. Ask the students if they thought about something they hadn’t thought about before to help you evaluate their learning

Sample session: Meet the alien

Aim: to evaluate your group, for example at the end of term.

Equipment: flipchart paper, multi-coloured pens, Post-its or digital tools that do the same thing.

Time: variable from 20 minutes.

Number of students: discussion groups need to be manageable so between three and six but the number of groups can be large if there is space for them to talk together.

Access: requires mobility to reach flipchart paper and the ability to write independently or with support.

Room set-up: two flipcharts joined together on walls or floor with plenty of space between the papers.

  1. Get the group to break up into smaller groups of between three and six people, and gather round a flipchart.
  2. Ask each group to draw an alien. The aliens can take any shape but they must have a head, a body and two hands. After that the students need to add a brain inside the head, a heart inside the body, a suitcase in one hand and a bucket in the other.
  3. Ask the students to imagine the alien has been part of the group with them. When they look at the alien’s brain, what did it learn this term/session? Ask the students to write the words that describe the learning on Post-its and post them on the alien’s brain.
  4. Then looking at the alien’s heart, how did it feel being part of this group? Again, students write the feelings and emotions on Post-its and post them on the heart.
  5. Now look at the alien’s hands and, reflecting back on the group’s activities and learning, what will it keep and put in its suitcase, and what will it throw away in the bucket? Repeat the exercise with Post-its.
  6. Encourage groups to feed back about their alien’s feelings. Ask them if a decision is a consensus decision or if it varies between aliens? Highlight where you can see themes, for example: “So it looks like all the aliens enjoyed and want more on online harassment, but they don’t want to do another session on human rights.”
  7. Thank the group and explain what will be done with the aliens’ feedback, how that will shape future planning and future sessions.
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