Alongside the benefit of engaging in a real and impactful project, the chance to advocate on behalf of a charity live on stage is something that the school and students have embraced. Eleanor explains, “We found that by making the final a very prestigious, sophisticated event held at an external venue with the whole year group in attendance, enabled far greater commitment to the programme and our teams spent more time getting to know the different charities and how they can support them. We also introduced a semi-final stage with two teams representing each house at the respective house assemblies which meant they were presenting to 25% of the school at a time. By making it more of an inter-house event, this gets the younger students involved, makes them aware of YPI at an earlier stage and everyone gets behind the teams representing their house.”
Although the programme is a great success within Banchory Academy, Eleanor does acknowledge that it is not without its challenges. Some of these challenges have been related to the rural location of the school and the charities, which logistically can make things difficult. “It can sometimes be difficult for our students if they make calls during their PSE lessons and they are waiting for a response which sometimes comes in after the lesson has finished. We also encourage our students to go out to meet their charities but this isn’t always possible during PSE time.” The school recognises that charities may not always have the resources to communicate or meet with students or attend the YPI Final, this however can be disappointing for students. However Eleanor also acknowledged the importance of “students keeping the charities informed on their progress with YPI and whether they have reached a final.”
Eleanor is clear that the benefits of YPI far outweigh any challenges that the students and charities may face. The school has seen amazing changes in some of its students. “We have had students who previously struggled and who didn’t speak up in class, but when they were in their YPI group in a final would get up on stage in front of 150 people and speak.” Eleanor says it has been transformational for these students. It has been really empowering for them to work with real people on real issues. We are looking forward to seeing how YPI continues to evolve and have a positive impact at Banchory Academy.