Domestic Abuse in teenage Relationships – George Eliot School YPPB:
After the success of the YPPB at Avon Valley school as a model, I was asked to establish another group but this time we would instead be exploring issues around domestic abuse in teenage relationships.
Sue Ingram, a fabulous woman who has the unfortunate title of being Warwickshire’s Domestic Abuse Coordinator, asked if we would be able to put together another Young People’s Project Board, that could not only help assess if they thought the Government “Would you see Abuse” campaign was effective, but also to explore the issue of abuse in teenage relationships further. The group would then be asked to make their own recommendations as to how DA could be tackled locally for future campaigns and if there was any additional material that could be supported on the new Respect Yourself website.
It was agreed that I would try to recruit a group from George Eliot School, after they had contacted the Respect Yourself campaign team to raise concerns about a number of their young girls that they felt were not in very positive relationships, some with peers and some with older teens and that they were looking for some support or intervention.
As a result, it was decided that we would try to recruit the group from the school and that if possible, it would be offered to a number of the young people highlighted, but not exclusively so. No one would be forced to take part – it was a voluntary project that they could either choose to take advantage of or not.
With the help of Becky Read the schools KS4 Learning Manager, we recruited a group of around 14 young people from across years 9-11, with a good mix of girls and lads. As always I asked for those that would benefit from the group, that do not always do fantastically in lessons, but have a thing or two to say for themselves – boy did we get them!
I say we had about 14 young people, due to the chaotic nature of the group, some weeks we had more, some weeks less. There was a core of year nine and ten pupils that came along almost every week, other students dipped in and out – but all bar one stayed involved throughout – indeed we even had a few extra additions along the way.
The group met on a weekly basis last period on a Thursday, the time set aside in the school for their free options. This allowed the entire group to miss other lessons without issue. After the initial training we were supposed to meet for eight weeks, up until half term, however, the group asked if we could continue until the end of the summer term, a further five weeks.
During our time together we covered a whole host of topics around teenage relationships and sexual health. Despite the fact we have been asked to for the focus group to try and discover specific bits of information, this is not the focus of our work or our discussions. The young people and their needs come first – as a result, we often go ‘oft piste’, with a bit of a meander – but this works, it allows the group room to explore issues that are relevant to them, instead of simply look at my agenda. There is a lot more give and take.
Indeed, in a focus group the main pitfall of asking people what they think about a given topic is that no matter how intelligent they might be, they can easily end up telling you what they think you want to know, instead of what they actually think for themselves. The trick is to start a conversation off topic that you have a strong suspicion will get the group talking about what you actually want to know about – that way you are never putting words in their mouth and instead can just record what they say.
The group were brash, gobby, loud and inappropriate most of the time – and were a complete pleasure to work with. I loved them! Indeed, during my time with the group we had some of the best and most insightful conversations I have ever had with young people – so much so that I will try to write up some of the conversations as separate posts (when time allows) – because they are most certainly worth it.
As a result of the groups fantastic thoughts and recommendations the Respect yourself website will be getting a small addition, that is currently being developed a “Relationships Health checker” plus their ideas are now feeding in to future campaigns and a very exciting new project based on this from Holland which some of the group have expressed their interest in continuing working with us on.
I love working on projects where people listen!