The Goldsmiths' Company Awards for Community Engagement

The Goldsmiths' Company Awards for Community Engagement - introduced in 2018 - celebrate the largely underacknowledged work of schools in supporting local communities through charitable and voluntary initiatives.

“I’ll never forget talking to a team of schoolchildren from Addey & Stanhope School,” says Judith Cobham-Lowe, Chair of the Goldsmiths’ Company Awards for Community Engagement. “They were telling us about their project to educate primary school pupils in their local area in south London about what to do if someone is stabbed. “They explained, ‘You see, it’s not being stabbed that kills you most of the time. It’s if someone pulls the knife out. Then you bleed to death.’ It was shocking to hear that these 13 year olds knew so much about knife crime. At the same time, it was moving that they were so keen to do something to tackle the problem.” Addey & Stanhope School were the runners up in the first Goldsmiths’ Company Awards for Community Engagement. They received a silver medal and £1,000 to help continue their life-saving work on raising awareness of knife crime.

The winners were a team from Manchester Grammar School, who received £3,000 for their project to support young adults who had been victims of human trafficking, giving them somewhere safe to live, and the language and life skills they need for employment. Joseph Kenny, lead teacher on the project, commented: “The prize money allowed us to purchase tablets and language learning software. As a result, we could support and teach the men remotely during the pandemic.”

The Goldsmiths’ Company Charity set up its Awards for Community Engagement to shine a light on the incredible – but largely unacknowledged – ways that schoolchildren are working to support their local communities. The awards are part of the Company’s ongoing commitment to educational projects. “The media tends to focus on the negative side in news reports about young people, because that’s what makes headlines,” says Judith. “With these awards, I feel that we’re reflecting something that’s much closer to the reality for many schoolchildren.”

 “The young people I’ve met through these awards have an exceptional social conscience. They care about their local community, about people on the margins of society, about those with the least power.”

Judith has been delighted by the thoughtfulness of the children who have taken part in the awards and how they have put themselves in other people’s shoes. She says: “Award entries have included a school near a Premier League football ground that carries out a communal litter picking session after every home match. Schoolchildren have taught themselves Makaton sign language to communicate with children with learning or communication issues. And at an inner city school, children have made hundreds of bright ceramic butterflies to cheer up their housing estate.”

Even to reach the regional heats, schools must demonstrate their ongoing commitment to supporting their local community. A dedication to social action has to be part of the school’s DNA, rather than simply a one-off project. “Schools that reach this stage tell us how proud they are to be celebrated for activities that often go under the radar,” says Judith.  For many pupils, taking part in the awards is an education in itself, as they are able to gain skills and confidence by presenting their own material and ideas to a panel of judges.

In 2021, over 100 schools from around the country submitted entries for the second cycle of the awards. An impressively diverse range of projects included: building PAT, the Polymer Aware Turtle, made from recycled plastics, his ‘shell’ a recycling bin; using music to care for people with dementia; training community librarians to improve local literacy amongst young people; and supporting the homeless with winter essentials backpacks.

The winners, announced in November 2021, were students from Eden Girls’ School in Coventry. They received a gold medal and £3,000 to deepen and extend their interfaith community project. The students’ initiative started by reaching out as an Islamic school to the local Catholic, Anglican and Sikh schools, suggesting that they jointly provide hot food to the homeless during lockdown. This led to the same team developing a ‘peace garden’ which will bring together pupils and the community to reinforce inter-faith learning and address misconceptions of Islam. “The peace garden project will provide an enriching social legacy for schoolchildren and their parents well into the future,” says Judith.

Enthusiasm for the 2022 awards is high, with over 130 entries already submitted. “I hope these awards will continue to put the spotlight on young people who are working to make the world a better place,” says Judith. “Schoolchildren are giving their time, energy and brilliant ideas to support their local communities, and that’s something to celebrate.”

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