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CVLLP 13: Youth Engagement

Project Objective

To engage young people in a wide range of positive activities relating to natural and built heritage within the Churnet Valley.

The Churnet Valley Living Landscapes Partnership project aims to conserve, enhance and celebrate the special landscape fringing the Peak District in the Staffordshire Moorlands and the northern parishes of East Staffordshire. Although the population of the Staffordshire Moorlands District is expected to increase by nearly 4% over the next 10 years, the number of young people is expected to fall. Jobs within the area are on average the lowest paid in Staffordshire and many people travel out of the district for work. Low potential earnings and high house prices lead many young people to migrate out of the area. This is particularly true within the CVLLP area. Young people leaving this area and, crucially, less young people entering the land management employment sector are putting an increased pressure on the special landscape.

CVLLP recognises that appropriate, positive engagement with young people living within or near to the project area, combined with a package of accredited training and skills development (CVLLP 22), has the potential to increase the chances of young people staying and working in the area. This will hopefully result in the aims of the CVLLP being carried on well beyond the timescale of the project. There will be two important outcomes from engaging young people in the CVLLP project:

  1. Through gaining a greater appreciation for the heritage, both natural and built, of the area, young people will place a greater value on the area and be more likely to respect and look after the area.
  2. Through acquiring training, skills and relevant experience, young people will be more employable, particularly within the land management sector.

Fit to existing strategies and objectives

‘Positive for Youth’

Government is currently developing a new cross-Government policy statement on services for young people, to be published in the autumn of 2011. The policy will set out to provide a society that is ‘Positive for Youth’, based on a new vision for all young people and the services all young people need to fulfil their potential. The vision for a society that is ‘Positive for Youth’ has young people with:

Strong ambitions

Young people have the energy and enthusiasm to shape and change the world, and their worlds, in innovative and exciting ways.

Good opportunities

In a positive society every young person should have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Supportive relationships

At a time when their peers have increasing significance and influence, young people need supportive relationships with adults they trust in order to help them to develop good judgment, learn from experience, take responsibility, and manage pressures.

Young people taking part in CVLLP activities will make a real contribution to the management and sustainability of the Churnet Valley and will recognise what they have achieved through relevant praise and encouragement. Achievements will be rewarded through the use of informal and formal accreditation and through sharing the news with the wider public. Through these mechanisms young people’s ambitions and feelings of a ‘can do’ approach will be raised.

Activities for young people through the CVLLP project will be wide-ranging and varied, appealing to many young people. Opportunities will exist to gain confidence, skills and qualifications that will be favourable to future employers, colleges and universities. Young people will also have the opportunity to influence decision-making processes within the valley.

Experienced and skilled staff will lead young people’s activities offered through the CVLLP project, acting as positive role-models to the young people and supporting their personal development. Activities will allow young people to mix socially with their peers as well as to work closely with adults on different tasks. Links will be facilitated between young people and adults living and working in the valley. These links will help the young people to recognise the opportunities for leisure activities, livelihoods and enterprise within the valley, raising their aspirations.

Comprehensive description of the project

A Youth Programme will be delivered from June 2012 to March 2016 with the overall objective:

“To engage young people in a wide range of positive activities relating to natural and built heritage, within the Churnet Valley.”

This programme will be an essential element of CVLLP providing a link between different strands of the project.

Not only will it provide a range of exciting activities for young people, it will also provide a means for CVLLP partners to engage young people in their projects and areas of work. It will provide young people with a greater appreciation for the local heritage, the knowledge and skills to look after the land in a sustainable way, and will hopefully improve the foundations for young people’s future lives in the Churnet Valley.

The following is a framework through which we will deliver youth engagement work within CVLLP. The project has been shaped by consultation with young people, the existing Living Landscape Partnership and internally within Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT 2011). It takes account of resourcing issues and ease of communication as well as building on the existing expertise of partner organisations.

The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust will employ a Youth Development Officer to deliver a diverse programme of heritage activities for young people aged 12 – 21 living in or near to the Churnet Valley. Sessional youth workers will be employed to support the project officer and/or to deliver some sessions. Crafts people, artists or other experts will be contracted to provide additional activities from time to time.

The project officer will contact existing groups of young people and work with them to undertake ‘mini-projects’. The groups of young people approached will include youth groups, Scout and Guide groups, college groups and potentially school groups. Projects could range from undertaking a series of practical conservation sessions on a nature reserve to interpreting a heritage feature (to be included within the CVLLP 17 interpretation project), or creating a new wildlife garden within a community. The project officer may suggest suitable projects or will help the groups to come up with their own ideas.

Over the four years 24 different groups will undertake mini projects. There will be a budget for materials and equipment for the mini-projects. If projects require a larger budget the project officer will assist the group to access additional funds from grants.

The project officer, supported by sessional staff, will deliver two programmes of regular activities for young people:

  • one for 12 – 16 year olds
  • one for 17 – 21 year olds

Sessional staff will be employed by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. Both programmes will be open to any interested young people and activities will take place across the project area on a variety of project partners’ sites. All projects and programmes will be promoted amongst existing youth organisations and agencies, schools, colleges, volunteer centres and through local media channels.

The programme for the younger age group will offer a range of practical conservation, exploration, arts, multi-media, crafts and heritage activities. The emphasis will be on enjoyment and experiential learning and the young people accessing the activities will help decide on the programme of activities.

The programme for the older age group will concentrate more on undertaking practical

work and improving skills and will be run as a ‘Youth Ranger’ format. Young people will complete practical conservation tasks, access improvements, and wildlife surveys and will help with heritage restoration work. This programme will work closely with various project partners providing these partners with a useful volunteer force. Young people will learn a range of useful skills, will gain relevant experience and an insight into the work of different conservation and heritage organisations.

Accreditation within the youth engagement project: Young people taking part in either of the programmes or in the mini-projects, provided their time input is roughly equivalent to at least four days, will be able to complete John Muir Awards. Young people undertaking activities for an appropriate amount of time will also be given the option to complete Youth Challenge or Youth Achievement Awards, depending on their age. Project staff will build evidence-gathering practices into all activities to ensure young people can complete these awards as easily as possible.

Development from youth programme: The activities will provide a useful taster for the Short Courses, the Accredited Training Programme (CVLLP 22) and possibly the Apprenticeship Scheme (CVLLP 21) being run alongside this project, and whenever possible young people taking part in the programme will be signposted onto these training opportunities.

During the first six months of the programme the project officer will liaise closely with the Woodland Adviser (CVLLP 1) to identify a woodland site that could act as a base for young people’s activities, obvious opportunities exist within Coombes Valley (CVVLP 19) and at Cotton Dell (CVLLP 20) but each has access issues that need to be considered. If a suitable site can be identified, and if there is enough interest amongst the young people, some of the programme will adapted to be run along the lines of a social forestry format. A ‘base camp’ will be created and sustainable woodland management and woodland craft activities will be delivered on the site. This format will be used on either of the age group programmes and also for some of the mini-projects. Young people would be taught to make products that could be sold to provide additional funds for the activities, adding an enterprise element to the programmes and linking it to the sustainable woodland theme and ecosystems services.

One large event will be delivered each year from 2013 to recruit more young people, to raise awareness of what the programmes have been doing and to celebrate the achievements of the young people.

Who will benefit?

Young people regularly taking part in the programme will benefit through:

  • gaining an awareness of and an appreciation for the natural and built heritage of the Churnet Valley
  • gaining practical skills and experience that will be useful in further training they undertake, in future careers or simply in their everyday lives
  • improvements in self-confidence, self-esteem and transferable skills
  • improvements in physical and mental well-being
  • opportunities to try new and exciting activities
  • opportunities to access further training opportunities

Participating partner organisations of the CVLLP project will benefit from the youth programme as it will facilitate links between partner organisations and young people. These organisations will be provided with the means to disseminate an awareness of their work and aims to a whole new audience.

Outputs and outcomes

Measured outputs

Over the four years of the programme 500 young people will take part in positive activities. Of these:

  • 50 young people will take part regularly for six months or more
  • 200 will achieve a John Muir Award or other form of accreditation
  • 50 will be signed up to further training opportunities
  • At least 200 activities or events will be delivered
  • 24 mini-projects will be completed
  • 3 large youth events will take place during CVLLP


All the young people who take part in the Youth Programme, from those who undertake just one taster session, to those attending regularly over the four years, will come away with an increased appreciation for the natural and built heritage of the Churnet Valley. In many cases this appreciation will be passed onto family members and friends. Young people having taken part in the programme on a regular basis will be more likely to want to stay in the area in their later lives and, particularly those who have undertaken accredited training, will have an increased employability.

Young people will gain insights into how the landscape of the Churnet Valley is managed and into the work of conservation and heritage organisations working in the area. Some young people will discover new interests and some will continue volunteering or working.

Risks and constraints

Operational risks

Risk: Key staff retention; technical skills and particularly relationships with young people and other youth workers need to be built up over time staff recruitment; retention is therefore important.

Contingency planning: Project is over a reasonable timescale compared to many other projects this should attract committed staff.

Risk: Long term staff absence could affect the success of the project because it has ambitious targets for the project timescale.

Contingency planning: Contingency budget to pay for cover for staff if necessary.

Project risks

Risk: Insufficient take-up of activities by young people.

Contingency planning: Our youth engagement research project was undertaken in order to create realistic targets for youth engagement. In addition we have identified the benefits of working within, and adding value to, the existing youth engagement programmes.

Post project risks

Risk: youth engagement within the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership area ceases when funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund ends.

Contingency planning: All of our youth projects will be delivered:

  • either with existing youth organisations who will be able to carry what we have developed under CVLLP forward with the new skills and opportunities it has created;
  • or in conjunction with a CVLLP partner, who by the end of the Heritage Lottery programme will have formed their own, free standing, youth wing within CVLLP.

Constraints, licences, permits etc

CVLLP do not envisage the requirement for any land or heritage based constraints or permissions. However, all of our youth engagement project will be managed by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust in compliance with all youth protection based legislation and codes of practice.

Invasive species

Our youth programme will work with out Participation project (CVLLP 9) on the “Churnet Valley Big Pull”. From this start we will work with young people to increase their understanding of ecological issues such as invasive species.


Our Youth Officer will maintain high levels of biosecurity with young people while undertaking projects. They will also work with others to raise the awareness of biosecurity issues within the valley.

Environmental Policy

Reduce travel: The Youth Officer will be based at the CVLLP office in the project area to reduce travel to a minimum and meetings will all be held in the project area.  Where possible site management equipment will be stored in the project area so there will be no need to bring it in from distance.

Efficient travel: Vehicles provided for the project staff will be low carbon emissions vehicles, there will be a CVLLP dedicated mini-bus available within the overall project which will be used to reduce private car use. We will endeavour to run events and activities close to population centres or along cycleways so that young people can attend without using family cars.

Discipline: Project Staff will be expected to comply with the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Environmental Policy.

Overall ethos

Our work with young people will be heritage orientated, but throughout there will be a strong element of sustainability and the potential for young people to in include environmental issues in the projects they carry out.