Ben Kinsella Lock Heart at the Ben Kinsella Trust exhibition


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The way in which we are perceived matters to us all. Status matters.

From the blog series: How did we get to this place.

I spend a lot of time encouraging young people to follow their dreams, to focus on their goals so that they can become who they want to be. Caring for each individual within any setting is so important, as everyone needs a different type of support. ‘Equity’ is more important than ever these days – giving people a different type of support in order for the result to be the same.

It is always wonderful to witness young people supporting each other, inspiring and challenging each other; whether that is in a school or in an extra-curricular setting. I have witnessed this in many settings, across the world. When young people inspire each other positively, good things happen; barriers are smashed, expectations are surpassed; progress is achieved.

I champion individuality amongst young people, encouraging them to nurture who they want to become, to bring their dreams to fruition, to make it happen. We do this with the secondary schools in the anti-knife crime workshops at the Ben Kinsella Trust – ‘what do you want to do in the future’; ‘how are you going to make that happen?’; ‘if you don’t know, what do you like doing? What are you good at?’

But there is a problem.

We can all call to mind young people who we know could achieve more if they had more positive influences or influencers in their lives. Many young people hit teenage-hood with a thirst to be accepted by their peers, a longing to ‘fit in’ to the group of choice at the time. Many want to be followers - to follow the trend, the right crowd. Sometimes the lack of individuality is palpable – to be an individual can be seen as not desirable – who wants to be the one who doesn’t ‘fit in’? Who wants to be ‘different’? Bullying is often based on perceived difference, or ignorance.

There is a worrying trend amongst some young people that in order to fit in with their peers, they need to do particular things, or behave in a particular way. Often, the quashing of individuality can be disappointing, but it’s not usually dangerous. But sometimes, this urge to fit in, to conform, to be accepted, can be dangerous. It’s all about status; the status of the individual; the perceived status of the group leader who leads the way. What does a leader have that makes them a leader? Followers.

Where followers find themselves associating with a group who routinely carry knives, they may be pressured into doing the same. Whether carried for ‘protection’ which statistically will end in tragedy, or with intent, people don’t realise that someone can be sentenced to four years in prison, just for having a knife on their person. Jaws drop in every session when this arises; fairly regularly there’s a comment - ‘Yeh but Miss, my mate’s brother had a knife on him and he just got a caution’ - to which I explain that in law, you can go to prison for four years. It’s important to avoid sweeping generalisations here – every case in law is handled on a case-by-case basis, but the law is clear and the reality is simple – arm yourself with a knife and you risk four years in prison.

I also point out to students that the Police are within their rights to search anyone for a weapon, which most students know; what they don’t know is that teachers and other educational staff are also able to search students if they suspect that they might be carrying a knife.

The way in which we are perceived matters to us all. Status matters. Carrying a knife will not improve your status.

Helen BB

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