On Friday, November 17th, Slough’s voluntary sector was honoured in a special award ceremony at Baylis House called the #OneSlough Awards. The awards were put together by Slough Council for Voluntary Services. Together As One (Aik Saath) received a nomination from Inspector Kelly Reed of the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) in the Public Sector Partnerships category – and we emerged victorious! The award was specifically for our Hospital Navigator Project, which we implement on behalf of the VRU at Wexham Park Hospital.
The Hospital Navigators project supports young people aged between 11 and 25 who present at the Emergency Department due to violence, substance misuse or poor mental health. Navigators stationed at the hospital at ‘peak hours’ for when those impacted by violence typically arrive. The project also accepts out-of-hours referrals. 193 young people were referred onto the scheme last year with over half being successfully referred onto a positive pathway. 37% of those who engaged, have done so for over three months, underlining the staff and volunteers’ determination to ‘walk with’ the young people until they are in a better place.
To find out more about the Hospital Navigators project, please contact Romaan: [email protected]
The audio provided above features the talented young poet, Aditi Banerjee, performing a captivating piece she first performed at “25 Years Together As One.” This remarkable piece was specially crafted by Aditi to honour our collective efforts and was presented during a momentous celebration at the Copthorne Hotel on Friday, October 20th, 2023. Aditi’s journey with us began prior to the pandemic when she was just a 14-year-old school student. She is now studying at King’s College London.
On stage, Aditi was accompanied by her mentor and our esteemed Creative Director, Desree. Together, they graced the audience with their awe-inspiring performances, leaving an indelible mark on our memories. Rest assured, we will share Desree’s remarkable piece with you in due course, ensuring it continues to be accessible for many years to come.
Aditi’s unwavering dedication to Empoword, a spoken word project that thrives on the energy of young people, is truly remarkable. If Aditi’s performance has ignited a spark within you, we highly encourage you to explore the upcoming events hosted by Empoword. In just a fortnight, we will be delighted to present our inaugural poetry festival, made possible by the generous support of Arts Council England. For further information, please find the details here.
In the interim, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to Aditi and Desree for their generous sharing of their exceptional talents. In Slough, a town that undoubtedly faces its own challenges, one thing it never lacks is an abundance of poetic brilliance. This place possesses a profound way with words.
Former teacher, Janet Morgan, has been a Together As One (Aik Saath) trustee for 25 years! As a SEND specialist, Janet has supported thousands of young people in her career and is still involved in running TAO. Here, she talks to us about multiculturalism, learning Punjabi and supporting children with SEND.
You’ve been with TAO since the beginning. Tell us how and why you first engaged with the charity.
I’ve lived in the South my whole life. We’ve actually lived in the same house for 40 years! Looking back, I can pinpoint many moments that led me to work with TAO.
For instance, I studied in London at a multicultural school in the late 50s. It exposed me to a wealth of different people and cultures. I remember my family hosting an African student on a study abroad programme – this was unusual in the 50s! I also recall a Kenyan friend sharing his struggles dealing with segregated lines in the airport when travelling back to visit relatives in Kenya. It was a different time.
I was a PE teacher, but after a career break to have my children, I decided to teach English as a second language to children newly arrived from Asia. The job included training every Friday about anti-racism and different cultures. It was then I committed to learning Punjabi for three months. The lessons were quite tough! It put into perspective how it must have felt for the children I was teaching.
When Mandeep Kaur Sira started TAO, I initially came onto the committee as an interested Slough resident. I was motivated by trying to help others change the narrative of the negative experiences of racism. And, I really resonated with TAO’s mission for conflict resolution, equality and fairness.
As part of the founding committee, my role was to listen. Other people had the ideas and mapped the way forward, while I offered comments and suggestions.
Throughout your career, you’ve supported a large number of young people, particularly those with SEND. Can you tell me about the work you did?
After teaching English as a second language, I became a teacher at Littledown – back then, it was a small school – and worked my way to Deputy Head. I helped to develop an outreach service to support children with difficulties across Slough in primary and secondary schools.
I’ve always related more to children who struggle academically. Some children, no matter how hard they work, find school difficult for whatever reason. This could be a disability, learning difficulty or background. Either way, it’s not a lack of talent, school systems just aren’t designed to support them in the way they need to flourish.
I still have a letter from a young girl written when she found out I was leaving my role as a student PE teacher. She had never written anything as long or complex before – and I felt touched to have inspired something in her.
What needs to happen to continue supporting young people in Slough?
In education, there’s a lot of talk about working together. Everyone thinks it’s a new idea, but it rarely happens. Things like confidentiality issues, high staff turnover and lack of funding all get in the way. So, the most needy children fall off a cliff as a result.
Early in my career, some children with difficulties were labelled as “too difficult” to work with. The margins were very narrow. Now, there is much more awareness, which is great. But, there’s still a finite amount of funding. The more knowledgeable we are on differences, the more help we need to support children and young people with those differences.
TAO is celebrating its 25th anniversary. What do you think has made it a standout organisation for so long?
The commitment from the staff and volunteers from day one has been amazing. As a whole, TAO is innovative and responds to real needs. It trusts young people and enables them to flourish because they’re given enough responsibility with the right support. Also, nobody can underestimate the commitment of the leadership team. I can’t put into words how impressed I am.
And, thinking back on the 25 years of TAO, which projects are you most proud of?
Partition Women’s Voices was fantastic. It gave women a platform to speak and share opinions. 17,000 Reasons to Remember was also another poignant project.
Mrs Raj Rani Arora, an interviewee from Partition Women’s Voices
To be honest, there isn’t one project that stands out the most. Rather, it’s what each project brought to the community: giving a voice to those without. TAO’s ongoing projects and work with young people in schools are incredible. You will never really know what seeds have been sown as a result of the various initiatives and how they’ve impacted young people’s lives.
Some things, you can’t measure. Like, how a conscience may have been pricked and what that will blossom into later in life. The little things are just as important.
How would you like to see Slough and TAO shaped in the next 25 years?
For Slough, I’d like the communities to continue to be friendly and welcoming and for the town to continue to improve the life chances of all its residents. Many people grumble about Slough and the economic situation with the shops. But most people that come to live in Slough (like the Welsh when it was economically challenging) manage to make a way for themselves despite the difficulties.
People should take more responsibility for their actions. Less grumbling, more doing!
I’d like to see TAO continue to respond to community needs and be innovative. They should balance looking forward to new things without losing sight of everything they are currently doing well.
What’s next for you?
I plan on still being a trustee of TAO and volunteering for my local church in Colnbrook. Otherwise, I’ll be enjoying retired life. I never want to be an old person who sits around doing nothing!
Janet Morgan lives in Slough, is a TAO trustee and volunteers at Colnbrook church.
Jamie Hassan, Chair of Trustees, presents Janet with flowers.
The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Support Form was created by the SEND Youth Focus Group as part of a participation project where young people get to use their experiences to drive change around Slough.
This form was created for activity providers to help them better understand the young people at their provision and how they can support them.
The activity leaders can give the parents or young people the option to fill out this form when they first join the activity. Once completed, this form can be stored and referred to when necessary.
If a youth activity does not provide this form young people and parents / carers can also take this form with them if they believe it will provide helpful information to the leaders and/or will make the young person feel more comfortable.
This form can be downloaded and edited. This allows you to complete the form on a device and then email or print off the form.
In the SEND Youth Focus Group the young people shared that some of the useful qualities that staff working with people with additional needs can have are being understanding, attentive, having the ability to build a rapport, the ability to speak calmly and quietly and being knowledgeable on SEND. They also always appreciate a supportive staff member that makes the effort to get to know them.
The SEND Youth Focus Group creates a space where young people can meaningfully discuss their experience, socialise and play games in a fun and inclusive environment.
The group is open to 11-25 year olds with SEND. To find out more information please contact the SEND Engagement and Participation Officer Jovi on 07709525687 or [email protected]