Leading Link is a Registered Charity (1150296), based in Bedlington, Northumberland. The organisation was established in April 2011 and its main aim is to provide real life opportunities, including business and enterprise, through a diverse range of activities, helping to maximise the potential of young people across North East England - we are independent but have the experience and expertise to help bridge the gap between young people and the real world.
Leading Link works on a local, regional and national level and we strive to advance capability, opportunity and knowledge through all of the young people that we work with - we passionately believe that attainment and aspirations in early years, especially in a real life context, has a significant impact on later life chances.
We develop key life skills through all of our projects, with a strong emphasis placed on youth leadership. We encourage individuality and creativity, with the right mix between freedom and structure, then apply it to a real world context. This is achieved through our growing network of delivery partners and progression opportunities - including The Key, bait and the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme - to help to enhance our key aim of #maximiseyourpotential.
The skills that we explore and encourage have proven to be the building blocks for future success in education, training and ultimately into employment for young people that we have worked with. Partnered with the development of key social skills including confidence, teamwork and self-esteem, we give young people the best possible chance to make their own informed choices, build their own lives and ultimately maximise their potential.
Our work falls into four main project strands:
Leading Link manage the Northumberland Children's University, which is a national programme for 5-13 year olds (participation) and 14+ year olds (volunteering), that aims to raise the aspirations of young people across the country and encourage quality learning and experience outside of the classroom.
Children's University™ use ‘Passports To Learning’ in which young people record the number of hours of completed extra-curricular activities, which have been validated using our quality control framework.
Activities can include anything from attending after-school sports clubs to going swimming at a local leisure centre or even visiting a museum exhibition. Once signed up, there are also further opportunities for passport holders to collect stamps through activities provided by Leading Link (subject to funding) or through our network of partners.
Once a passport holder has achieved the minimum amount of 30 hours, they are then invited to put on their cap and gown and attend a graduation ceremony at the end of each year, where friends and family are invited to celebrate their achievements, and bronze (30 hours), silver (60 hours) and gold certificates (100 hours) are awarded by a special guest, based on the number of hours of attendance in any validated activities.
Leading Link work with several schools across North East England on a diverse range of activities which are designed to enhance the curriculum and offer real life opportunities for students of the school.
Dedicated projects include helping to promote youth voice and learning how to manage positive change in school and the wider community and promoting role models by encouraging young people to become leaders/volunteers, including our hugely successful Youth Ambassadors™ programme.
We manage transition, including facilitating targetted summer programmes and mixing Primary year groups throughout their final year to ease the transition into Secondary school and encourage interaction with each other, through various activities including Maths Magic, Roving Reporters and Forensic Science fun.
We also provide bespoke programmes for targetted groups of young people, including those at risk of becoming NEETs, at risk of being excluded, low literacy students and general behavioural issues. We help to identify and overcome problems, as well as provide opportunities for progression.
In an area with little access to creative industry, we have our own youth media team as well as a strong working partnership with Radio Northumberland. We also work with several schools on the BBC News School Report, which is a national project which aims to encourage young people to get involved with newsmaking. We also hold an annual BBC News School Report Question Time at The Lodge with local politicians.
Business Links is a new for 2015, currently unnamed project, which is designed at linking young people in North East England with the world of business and enterprise. We are currently working with key partners, including The Key and Highlights PR, to develop the programme to roll out in the coming year.
It is hoped the programme will be across a range of industries, including marketing, hospitality, engineering etc), and opportunities, where applicable, will include experience visits to industry, enterprise competitions, work placements/experience and even progressive skill/training programmes.
Despite scaling back its community activities, Leading Link is still responsible for one of Northumberland's biggest annual family fun days. The Big Event, which has been held at Attlee Park since 2012 (though the event itself was held in the four years previous at Druridge Bay) has attracted in excess of 3000 people in recent years and is seen as our annual celebration, with all of our young people invited to get involved in the running of the event.
The day includes children's fun fair rides, a sizzling summer BBQ, an enterprise market of local businesses and community groups and a live entertainment stage featuring our extremely popular Northumberland's Got Talent competition, which was recently recognised by the producers of Britain's Got Talent.
We are also continually identifying potential to progress for young people through our strong partnership work, and we often discover opportunities that can be applied to, and accessed by, all of our four key project strands.
NATIONAL CITIZEN SERVICE (NCS)
The National Citizen Service (NCS) programme is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for 15-17 year olds.
It helps to build skills for work and life, while taking on new challenges and meeting new friends. The aim is to encourage personal and social development by working on skills like leadership, teamwork and communication.
Leading Link was a major partner in Northumberland in helping to deliver the NCS beween 2012 and 2015, overseeing up to 5 cohorts (75 young people) at any time - we were pleased to have had a 100% pass rate in all our programmes.
The programme is split into three key areas:
PARTICIPATION - A week of outward bound activities including rock climbing, raft building, zip wiring and more.
CONSERVATION - Skill building, social action planning and further development opportunities
SOCIAL ACTION - Opportunities from sport, to building and more. A chance to make your community better!
Participants are then invited to an end-of-programme graduation, where their achievements are celebrated and they are each presented with a certificate signed by the Prime Minister.
Opportunities have included helping to produce a piece of artwork which featured in the ever-popular Enchanted Parks in Gateshead, a digital enterprise set-up by a group of young people in Northumberland reaching the national finals of the iDEA award in 2014, and having input in the youth and volunteering strand of a brand new £11.2m landscape discovery centre development in Northumberland National Park.