Guest Blog – Meadbh Dempsey(17)

Posted on July 12 2010 by Anne Longfield

On the 8th of July I went with the family commission to Phoenix High School in Hammersmith and Fulham, North London. The purpose of our visit was to conduct a focus group with about 20 young people aged 14-15, in which we asked them questions about their families and their lives.  What we learnt from the focus group will go on to inform the Family Commissions, ‘Youth Report’.

I spoke to a small group of five students in years 9 and 10 about a wide range of subjects. I was very impressed by the ease with which the students articulated their opinions on difficult issues, perhaps many adults would have found it more difficult. However, the thing that struck me above all else was their openness; they were very truthful when telling me things about themselves, and their experiences.

Perhaps as would be expected, the students were hesitant at first but soon became more comfortable. They spoke more openly and with increased vigour about issues close to their own lives. One common frustration between the five that I spoke with was the lack of provision for young people in their areas. Another topic that united the group was young people’s life chances. The students felt that negative stereotyping of young people from disadvantaged areas could make it hard, if not impossible, for those young people to go on and achieve what they wanted to achieve.

I have nothing but good things to say about the students at Phoenix High School. While they themselves probably don’t appreciate the strict rules at the school, the rules are obviously working because the children I spoke to were very polite, communicative and thoroughly interesting to speak to, a credit to their school and to themselves.

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