So, Young Health Champions is a new offering from Community Alcohol Partnerships, a Level 2 qualification for young people aged 14-25 which aims to give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to act a peer mentors within the school or setting they attend.
It is designed to help young people to improve their health and wellbeing and understand unhealthy behaviours like alcohol misuse. This came to CAPs in 2015 when I was co-ordinator of the Reading Community Alcohol Partnership, when an email to Helena Conibear from the Alcohol Education Trust asking about peer led education led me to the Young Health Champions qualification.
A couple of months later after setting up the centre, a train the trainer course, paperwork and more paperwork I was ready to offer this to a school in Reading. Now as any CAP coordinator will know engaging a school with a new project is hard work so I went for a school I had been working with for a while and they said yes.
So, funding was agreed and 10 students from the school came off curriculum for the day to complete a lot of the course with the remainder being done over the next several weeks.
I must admit we were both learning through this experience, me as it was the first time running this course and the students – well, they were amazing and took to it like ducks to water.
Certificates were in the bag and the real work began, well for the students anyway. They developed a plan of activities for their peers, from delivering drop down days for Year 7 students to manning stalls at school fun days and during Alcohol Awareness Weeks for parents.
So, if we skip forward to 2018 what are they up to, pretty much the same. Now in Year 10 at the school they manage and run assemblies, they still offer drop down days for Year 7 students and it’s now time to think about offering the course to a new set of Year 8 students to take over the role at the school.
These students and this school are a testament to how the Youth Health Champions course can have a positive impact on peers, teachers and most importantly parents.
CAP is now offering the course across all CAP areas and as well as secondary school settings I am now looking outside that comfort zone and working with all youth related organisations.
I have already started working with a Youth Offending Team in Wales which will start the course in August and my fellow adviser in the North will be supporting a youth organisation in the North of England to run the course in summer 2018.
I am very much an advocate of peer-led education right through from Primary to University and one exciting development of the Young Health Champions is that a group of students from Hayling Island plan to support Year 6 students in the current transition project. I will let you know how this develops.