Learn to Lead

| Helen Sharp

In short – Learn to Lead is ‘co-production in schools’. It’s a leading light which I often use as a case study to explain how co-production differs from other forms of participation.

“We take engagement to a new level, so that from the very young upwards, people have responsibility and ownership and can run things for themselves.”

Within the school sector, there are often set ways in which students can ‘participate’ from volunteering to being elected to the school council. Learn to Lead is different. They push student involvement so that it is universal – not just for the brightest and most vocal – and the focus of involvement shifts from what the school thinks is important, to what the students want. These may on occasion turn out to be one and the same, but starting with what matters to the students is one of the reasons why this approach is so successful.

“I used to think about school – get it over and done with. I didn’t think much of it. Now I am going out of my way to help the school rather than just turn up.” – Secondary school student

Another factor in their success is their understanding that in order to embed co-production properly into an institution, there needs to be a shift in institutional culture which values the new approach and enables it to grow. A school can be patriarchal and tightly structured – the teachers are the experts, the students there to learn from them. This power imbalance can be difficult to shift and in recognition of this, Learn to Lead spend time working with teachers to influence their beliefs. They learn to give their students space to take the lead and combine their passions and gifts to bring about the positive changes they wish for.

Learn to Lead have produced transformational outcomes and are now training and supporting people in other settings besides schools, including local communities, adult social care and health.

Learn more about ‘Learn to Lead’ at www.learntolead.org.uk and watch some of their inspirational films.

Photo by Ben Wicks

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