Marches Academy Trust held its first student conference on Thursday 14th September, where 130 young people from eleven schools came together at the event hosted by AICO in Oswestry. The focus of the event was mental health and wellbeing and sustainability. After a welcome from CEO Sarah Finch, two keynote speakers addressed the group.

The first speaker, Nicci Russell, CEO of Waterwise gave an inspirational insight into how we can all make small changes that have a big impact on the environment. Nicci asked the children and young people to reflect on what sustainability means to them and what changes they could make in their own lives. Ben West, mental health advocate, campaigner and author then joined the auditorium virtually and gave an impassioned talk which provided advice for how young people can use strategies to support their mental health. Both keynote speakers were truly inspirational and gave practical tips for how to build and develop student led projects in their schools.

The workshops that followed were facilitated by sixth form students and focused on developing individual projects that will run in each school throughout this academic year. The vision for the conference was to empower young people to use their voice to make change. Watching their ideas unfold during the workshops was magical. Students said;

‘I can’t wait for the next one’

‘The guest speakers’ words inspired and motivated me to try and be a better person’

‘I enjoyed today because I got my opinions across and felt very welcomed by everyone’

CEO Sarah Finch said;

‘Listening to students’ voices and providing opportunities for them to be at the centre of real change is a key driver in the Marches Academy Trust. We wanted to empower young people to become change agents, developing leadership skills, communication skills and creativity to devise projects to benefit their whole school communities. We are looking forward together, eagerly awaiting the bold change planned by our children and young people.