We were honoured to play a small part in helping to inspire a future generation of leaders when a group of 71 ambitious Sixth Form students, from schools across Bedford, gathered for the inaugural Ready2Lead? Leadership Conference on Wednesday 2 October.

The Leadership Conference, hosted at Bedford School, was borne out of an idea from Mr Everitt, a Physics Teacher and Housemaster here at the school, and was a collaboration of students and teachers from Bedford School, Bedford Modern School, Bedford Girls’ School, Mark Rutherford School, The Bedford Sixth Form, Biddenham International School, Kimberley College, St Thomas More School and Bedford Free School.  

With support from the Harpur Trust, the students and their teachers, along with UpRising (a national youth leadership organisation), worked together over the last six months to create the exciting programme. However, it was the students who stole the show. Eight student ambassadors not only took an active part in the organisation, but proved themselves to be aspiring leaders themselves by leading ‘from the front’ on the day itself.

Upper Sixth Former Henry Poppleton, who was a Student Ambassador, said “I really enjoyed being able to have an impact on how this conference was run, being able to contribute my ideas to discussions and congratulate others on theirs. I think it is key for young adults to learn the essential leadership skills as it will aid them in later life and hopefully open numerous doors. I also hope it will help them to inspire the next generation of leaders”.

The vision for Ready2Lead? was a desire to add to the fantastic opportunities already provided in the town and become a hub for inspirational collaboration between our local schools, charities and businesses. With most of the Borough’s Sixth Forms in attendance, the conference created huge possibilities for learning from one another and developing a fantastic self-leadership provision.

The conference commenced with an address from keynote speaker Jamie Bridge, who himself attended both Bedford Modern School and Mark Rutherford School. Jamie is currently Chief Operating Officer at the International Drug Policy Consortium and encouraged the students to “be authentically yourself.” He also reflected on what it means to be a ‘leader’, as well as discussing the benefits of working for a social cause.

“Being a leader doesn’t just mean being the head of an organisation, but being a credible advocate for those without a voice.” Jamie Bridge

The conference line-up also included Old Bedfordian Richard Lindley (45-54). Richard was a television broadcaster for over 30 years for both BBC Panorama and ITN News. Now at 83 years old, Richard has dementia – Alzheimers’. Richard was joined by his wife Carole Stone, a former producer of BBC Radio 4’s flagship discussion programme Any Questions?  Together, they delivered a session Ready2Connect and delivered candid and thought-provoking advice such as, “Forget yourself and take an interest in other people”.

“Leadership can happen now. Treat people the same whoever they are. Take a chance, be bold and just speak to them. After all, we are all worried about the same things.” Carole Stone

The students also heard from Sam Roberts, local commentator and English teacher at Prep School, who delivered an insightful Ready2Speak session and shared intriguing facts such as: 93% of the message we communicate is non-verbal.

“It’s the way you say it.” Sam Roberts

During the course of the day, the students also attended a break-out workshop called Ready2Change the World, where they learnt about global issues and the United Nations Global Goals. Each student explored different levels of action and committed to a personal pledge.

Ready2Step Up was a session run by the Student Ambassadors themselves and broached topics such as taking responsibility and communicating effectively, as well as providing practical opportunities of where these skills can be put to the test.

Speaking after the conference, Mr Everitt told us, “It was incredibly rewarding for the planning team to see delegates engaging with one another so constructively in this first borough-wide conference on self-leadership. To see individuals beginning to realise that they can lead change simply by bringing their best self to the world was both powerful and exciting.

We are so grateful to our wonderful speakers and experts, both local and from further afield. They were inspirational in their words and in their willingness to invest their time so generously.”

The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive and the team is already thinking about how to improve with early plans for Ready2Lead2020! already underway. Numerous students have already asked if they can be involved in the planning for next year, and schools are saying that they will definitely come – it promises to be even better!


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