Get Set to Make a Change


A new London 2012 legacy project is inviting young people to pledge their time to change their communities for the better. Teacher John Doherty explains.

With less than a month to go until the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, London 2012 often feels like a distant memory. However, it recently got a shot in the arm with the launch of a new education programme from the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association called Get Set to Make a Change.

This is a youth volunteering programme aimed at inspiring young people across the country to develop and lead projects in their local communities. 

Interestingly, more than 500 secondary schools have already signed up which suggests that the “spirit of London 2012” can easily be rekindled! This comes as no surprise as schools across the country embraced London 2012.

At Davenant Foundation School in Loughton, Essex, we have welcomed the new programme as an opportunity to build on the work we did prior to and during the London Games. 

London 2012 was written into the school development plan, had support from governors and the senior team, and was embedded across the curriculum. As one of the lead schools for the East of England, we were involved in a wide range of activities that included everything from running events and sharing good practice to hosting the training camp for the Metropolitan Police Dog Support Unit.

Students also volunteered as Young Games Makers, working with Paralympic athletes and in the Olympic Park, and five members of staff were Paralympic Torch Bearers. It was an amazing time and student feedback highlighted how positive the experience had been.

I am sure that there are many other schools that had equally positive experiences and, like us, were keen to look at how to build on the legacy of 2012 and take it forward.

How it works

Inspired by the Olympic and Paralympic values, Get Set to Make a Change is inviting young people across the country to pledge to undertake a project during 2014 in their local area that can make a real difference to the community.

To get involved, students need to work together as a team to develop an idea for a community project. They may also need to undertake research and speak to local groups already working in the area. Students are free to develop their project as they wish as long as it supports the themes – participation and a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Once they have come up with an idea, they can “pledge” to undertake their project on the Make a Change website. This is then added to the map of pledges and can be read by visitors to the site. There are already hundreds of pledges that have been added, including a “give it a go day” to introduce new sports to families, running zumba classes for all ages, and organising a water rocket championship for young people across Wales.

At Davenant, students have pledged to undertake two very different community projects. The first aims to establish handball as a sport in local primary schools. Students are planning to promote and organise a handball festival in May for the 42 primary schools in the local area. They have already been in touch with England Handball and agreed a plan to support teacher training and delivery of handball in the selected schools.

The second project is to work with Loughton Bowls Club in Epping Forest to teach members to play the Paralympic sport Boccia (similar to bowls). Members of the club have also promised to teach students bowls and discussions are underway to see if Davenant’s ICT students can help to create a website that can publicise the club to bring in new members that hopefully include some young people.

The value to students

Encouraging students to participate in Get Set to Make a Change offers a wide range of opportunities. In terms of their personal development volunteering is a great way for them to develop leadership skills, increase in confidence and improve their communication skills. 

It also offers them a chance to build-up useful skills in areas such as project-management, budgeting and finance, creating publicity campaigns, and team-working. These are valuable life-skills that they can also include in UCAS personal statements and in applications for Apprenticeships or jobs.

Getting started

Get Set to Make a Change has developed some useful resources for students that provide support on all of the aspects involved in undertaking a community project. This may be the first time that they have needed to write formal letters and emails, created publicity and marketing materials or managed a budget. 

For schools, the programme is an inspiring way to meet the requirements around improving the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of students. In particular, understanding how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working locally and make a change for the better.

  • John Doherty is head of year at Davenant Foundation School in Essex. He is also responsible for developing student leadership and has oversight for the global dimension in education.
Further information

CAPTION: Change champions: 400 students joined athletes for the launch of Get Set to Make a Change at the iconic 3 Mills Studios (Photo: Joe Morgan/TeamGB)


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