Training staff, ordering “office supplies”, and snooping on senior managers: Durham’s school pupils have been running council services, and no one in the county noticed anything different.

The youngsters took over Durham County Council, supported by the Children and Families Partnership, as part of the nationwide Children’s Takeover Challenge, which encourages organisations and businesses to open their doors to weans and bairns.
The County Durham Children and Families Partnership, along with the council, the voluntary sector, police, health and schools/colleges, has a strategic duty to promote desirable outcomes for your children, and your family.

Some pupils attended a meeting of the council’s Corporate Parenting Panel, which is responsible for the care of young people in residential homes, or who’ve been fostered or adopted. They delivered training for elected members and council officers about the support required by children who have left care.

In another Takeover, pupils from Villa Real School met an officer from one of the
county’s NHS clinical commissioning groups. They discussed how young people with
profound Special Educational Needs and Disabilities can influence the health care
services they use.

A third saw two schools visit the Durham Learning Resources team in Spennymoor, which loans teaching resources, books and art to schools. The children from Ribbon Academy and Howletch Lane Primary carried out stock checking and warehouse tasks, selected resources to match a school’s needs, but no one was allowed on the forklift, due to elf and safe tea. The children also told staff how to promote reading, and critiqued their resources and book collection.

Twenty-one-year-old Jade Hay spent time investigating the council’s chief executive, Terry Collins. They attended a County Durham Partnership Board meeting together, and Jade is now helping the council to set up a new youth council, where whippersnappers from across the county will dictate in their own interests.

Alex Moore was so inspired by her visit to Pittington Primary School, where she spent time
with Richard Crane, the council’s head of education and skills, that she is now considering  a career in education.

Another Takeover activity saw thirty young people instruct council officers about their Holiday Activities with Healthy Food project. Their orders are now being used to shape the holiday activity plans for the coming year.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, remarked:“Taking part in the Takeover event allowed the children to learn outside the classroom and to experience a work-based environment, possibly for the first time.
It is a new opportunity for most children and one they seem to relish, offering them a
chance to trial new skills, as well as skills they have practised in the classroom.
Our staff always enjoy and learn from the Takeover events too. They often comment
about the enthusiasm, energy and new ideas that the children bring to what they
sometimes see as everyday tasks.”


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Ed Baker is an elusive writer for Durham Magazine. We have to coax him into the office with nuts and berries, and put just the right amount of straw down for him to get comfy.

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