On Monday 1st February 2016, 83 children from the KDBH Area assembled at Solihull Civic Centre to take part in a Youth Forum on the future of Knowle, Dorridge and Bentley Heath. Children from all the local schools took part: Dorridge Primary, Knowle Primary, Bentley Heath Primary, St George and St Teresa’s and Arden. The age of those involved ranged from seven to seventeen
an overview of the day
The day began with a welcome from the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Glenis Slater, and an address from Nick Page, the Chief Executive of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. It was through this that the young people were informed of the Council’s priorities for the future, but reminded that with these came with the challenges of an increasing population in a time of decreasing funding. Nick Page urged the participants to embrace the opportunity that they had to be involved in shaping the future of the area.
The children were then divided into seven different groups, comprising members from all schools and of all ages. Prefects and Senior Pupils from Arden led the sessions and facilitated the discussion. The children were given the opportunity to look at maps of the local and wider area and to understand concepts such as the greenbelt and integrated transport.
The first task was for each person in the group to decide what three things they felt that were good about the KDBH Area and three things that could be better. These were recorded on Post-It notes to allow for information-sharing and distribution. They then worked together to identify key themes from these suggestions. These themes formed the basis for discussion and, in the next session, were identified as key priorities, linking with those of the Neighbourhood Plan:
People and Communities
Arts and Culture
Environment and Spaces
Sport and Leisure
Learning and Schools
Taking the original suggestions, the discussion groups were split into sub-groups, each with a remit to create a ‘vision’ for the future for one of the key themes. They recorded their ideas on a brick for the ‘vision wall’.
Before returning to the Chamber to feed back to the rest of the forum, each group was also asked to combine their ideas and generate a ‘vision statement’, beginning with :
‘In our vision, KDBH is an area where….’.
The day ended with representatives from each group presenting to the assembled audience in the Chamber as to their suggestions for each of the categories and their vision. The confidence with which all of the young people, of every age, spoke and the assuredness of their delivery of their vision was very impressive and confirmed just what an important resource our young people are in shaping the future of the KDBH area.
By way of conclusion to the discussion day, the young people were asked to suggest their vision of the future of the area. There suggestions are as follows:
In our vision, KDBH is an area where:
Opportunities are available for everyone
We are friendly, caring and safe, with exciting opportunities for all people.
Everyone feels safe and can enjoy themselves whoever they are and whatever they like to do.
Families and young people can safely live, work, learn and enjoy their near luxury lifestyles. Also that there are areas dedicated to leisure, sport, schooling, food and cuisine of which all ages can enjoy.
We look after the environment, young people have many opportunities and, most importantly, everyone is safe.
Where the community should be strong and united together. Most importantly, it should lead to a happy future for the young.
All children have somewhere to have fun, all people, both young and old have a place to learn and everyone has freedom, equality and feels welcome.
Figure 1: A ‘Wordle’ analysis of the vision statements created by the young people at the end of the day
It is evident from these statements that young people of KDBH recognise and value a sense of community, but also want the area to be one of opportunity where, potentially, they will be able to live successfully as adults. Equality and diversity are also prominent in the statements and, somewhat strikingly, so is the need for a sense of ‘safety’. It would be interesting to probe further to understand fully from where the young people perceive a threat to their safety and security - more to come.
The participants in the vision day were asked to write their ideas on ‘bricks’ relevant to the category in which they felt it best fitted. The distribution of categorised statements was as follows:
Figure 2: A summary of the categories in which responses were given
It is clear that the young people involved find importance in all of the categories suggested, however, there were slightly more responses in the Sport and Leisure and the Transport categories. The theme that received fewest suggestions was People and the Community. It should be noted, however, that the resources provided and the way in which the activities were structured may have influenced the evenness of spread through the categories.
The following provides a summary of the most frequently suggested ideas in each category:
Figure 4 : A summary of the responses given for various Key Priority categories
It should be noted that the young people worked independently of adults in this section; the information gathering and facilitation of the creation of these suggestions was carried out by Arden prefects and Senior Pupils. Where possible, their comments have been summarised verbatim. With this in mind, it is evident that the young people are extremely perceptive to, and influenced by, wider issues beyond their daily lives. They made insightful comments about their education and that of others and are well aware of the challenges of providing sufficient housing of the appropriate type in the Area. As shown in Figures 3 and 4, a repeated theme through several categories was the need for activities and facilities for older children. These, it would seem, are currently lacking. In addition, the need for a pleasant environment was highlighted, with concern at the prospect of losing too much greenbelt/rural land to development. There were several mentions of safety and security; CCTV, policing, vandalism, road safety. This is clearly to the fore in the minds of the young people involved and should not be ignored.
Summary of outcomes
There needs to be increased provision for older children, in relation to community, sport and recreational activities
Road safety is a concern, with a desire for greater speed restrictions and increased, safe cycle routes
Policing of park areas needs to be improved to maintain the quality and security of the environment
KDBH needs to offer opportunities for a diverse range of people, in relation to age and culture
There is a desire for improved sports facilities e.g. a gym and swimming pool
The area is lacking a centralised arts venue for music, drama and exhibitions
Housing provision must be affordable enough for young people to be able to stay in the area
Development must be balanced with the care and preservation of open and natural spaces.
The ‘Building a Vision for the Future’ Day was a great success. All participants were enthusiastic and the confidence, leadership and commitment shown by children of all ages was something which, as a community, KDBH can be very proud of. The passion that our young people demonstrate in wanting to sustain the good that they find, as well as improve the bad that they encounter, is something that must be harnessed in shaping the future of the Area.
The value that including even very young people in the decision making processes within KDBH should not be underestimated. They have an uncomplicated clarity of vision, which can be surprisingly accurate; often they are concerned by issues of which adults are not necessarily aware. Many of those involved in this event enquired as to when the next forum was taking place, demonstrating their enthusiasm for, and commitment to, being an integral part of building the future of the Area. A failure to capture the energy and passion of the young in planning for the future of KDBH would be an opportunity missed.
Report presented by Amy Fallis at KDBH Open Forum Meeting 9 March 2016