Sunday, 29 June 2008

Feeling young and raising aspirations

I spend much time saying we must remember what it feels like to be young if we are to stay connected to their realities and hence provide education and services that are relevant. This week I have been remembering what I felt like being young. I have been on holiday in Cornwall where i grew up.  

My partner now knows every school I went to, every pub I loved, every beach i took solace and inspiration from, as well as the names (and older faces) of many people i grew up with, the (now waste) and the ground where the GP I first asked about condoms and contraception was.

In public policy we are talking more and more raising aspiration in the young.   Whilst at the Minack Theatre, the awe inspiring outdoor theatre on the edge of the cliff near Lands End, I spent some time reflecting on how aspiration is developed.  

I last went there when I was 18, 3 days before my English Literature A level, where I watched A Winters Tale which was one of my course texts.    As I sat there 18 years ago, i didn't know exactly what my future held.  But I did know I had a future I cared about.  I knew I would be going to University to do something (anything if my results dictated it) and I knew I was excited about the next stage of my life.    

Part of that aspiration was nurtured by my family, part by my school and a huge amount to do with one particular teacher who connected personally, through relationship, to make sure I took the opportunities available.  He said it was a responsibility and a right.  Raising expectations happens in a plethora of ways - school trips, pastoral care, youth opportunities, cubs, guides, religious affiliation, voluntary work.  

The common denominator is aspiration is developed through relationship -.  Let us not be fooled that developing new initiatives or changing structures is our central task - they are part of the process - our task is developing meaningul relationship with all children and young people.   

It is time we ensure 'ability to develop meaningful relationships with children' is number one on all our competency frameworks.  It may be hard to measure, but if we value it we also have to find ways to quantify and celebrate this competency.  It underpins improvement in all public policy areas. 

My holiday reads;

Chesil Beach by Ian Mcewan
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Both of them simply brilliant

Monday, 23 June 2008

Why waste the chance?

Last week Brook was extremely disappointed government wasted a significant opportunity to maximise the protection available through the new HPV vaccine programme.  A vaccine offering less protection than another on the market was chosen for a national vaccination programme. Whatever the 'pre determined criteria' the spokesperson for department of health referred to in defence of their decision, young women have been let down with this decision.

We also saw increases in rates of abortion for the first quarter of 2007. Who knows the reasons behind this, hopefully quicker access and better referrals. Both are needed. In February government announced increased investment in contraception. Three months into the financial year professionals are telling me the money isn't reaching contraceptive services in many areas. Didn't we see this with the Choosing Health money for sexual health a few years ago? 

We must not let it happen again. Young people need and deserve good quality support and investment in their sexual health. Chances to make a significant improvements to young people's sexual health cannot be allowed to slip away without those making decisions know we are bothered.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Brook's getting a new look

We are in the process of getting a new logo and visual identity, and we now want to get our stakeholder, colleagues and friends views on the designs we have had developed.   Please visit and give us your feedback.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Generations of Love

On Tuesday night I went to see a brilliant muscial called Love - the musical at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. It was the story of 'old people' in a residential home, with a central theme of relationships and love. I have written before about my early experiences of befriending the most gorgeous woman in her seventies for the last eight years of her life when I was 11 - 18. I spent many blissful hours learning through listening as she talked of tales of love lost and gained and the devastation and determination when her husband died, and the tragedy and joy of watching their children learn the lessons of love and relationships.

I was acutely reminded of Edith throughout this musical and i was reinforced in my belief that young people could learn so much from older people, and older people who often give young people a hard press could learn much from them - i.e. that the feelings of youth have not changed that much despite the fact that technology and circumstance has.

Through some peculiar twist the musical opened my eyes to what I have seen all around me today - I have been visiting a very close family friend in a hospice. Sat all around us are tales of love, hope, survival, dignity and indignity- lovers holding hands amongst wires, drips and barley orange drinks, one reading the paper whilst the ill person sleeps for a while, conversations sometimes trivial and sometimes intense.

When I have asked before how do you teach about love, trust and loyalty, it seems to me that we look to those who have experienced it for decades. Older people may well be the best teachers, and those of us involved in promoting positive relationships could helpfully think about how to utilise the rich resource they offer in communities.