Every year, the UK’s Changemakers are celebrated by The Big Issue. These are the people and campaigns helping to make society more progressive and more compassionate. We want to take the time to thank them for all that they do by looking back on their hard work.
These are the Changemakers that are dedicating their time to improving education in schools for generations to come.
After fielding more and more complex – and concerning – questions from his pupils about coronavirus vaccine conspiracies, East London school-teacher Ed Stubbs decided there needed to be a better way to help the pupils make up their own minds. Not wanting to force his own views on his pupils, the science teacher got in touch with vaccine researchers directly to find the answers to his pupils’ questions. The Stephen Hawking Foundation and Vaccine Confidence Project helped Stubbs create an education pack that presents the science behind the vaccine and addresses conspiracy theories, which is available to download to anyone who needs it.
Why is the work you’ve been doing this past year so important?
There were people protesting against the Covid vaccine outside my school even, so it’s been really hard for the pupils to decide whether to get the jab or not. We’re all naturally averse to the unknown, so the less scary option for these kids can be just to do nothing. These resources lay out the facts and evidence in an easy-to-understand way, so they can make their own mind up.
What are you most proud of achieving this past year?
The resources have been downloaded all over the world – from Brazil to China, Russia and the United States, which shows there was a real need for it. I’m proud that we created something that was based on evidence, and I think in the future schools have a duty to supply this kind of information to their pupils.
What are your plans for 2022?
I have recently left teaching to join the London School of Economics, researching Covid in care homes. The project got me thinking about public health messaging and we saw how bad things got for care homes at the peak of the pandemic.
It’s the job of teachers to invest in young people and set them up for healthy lives in the future, but people at the other ends of their lives are often quite forgotten in our society. I’m excited to work on how people can enjoy and be dignified in the last phase of their life.
Scott got her first publishing deal when she was just 11. Now aged 14, the author released her third book in 2021. After getting an autism diagnosis, she has been using her experience to help others and to educate people about neurodiversity.
“It was mainly the feeling that I was somehow different to everyone else and I just didn’t know why,” Scott told The Big Issue in an interview about her latest book Ways to Be Me. “When somebody’s diagnosed it’s nothing to be afraid of, you are just the same as before but now you know why.”
Scott was interviewed on Woman’s Hour last year, has been a guest on several podcasts and has spoken at neurodiversity events. She runs a Twitter account with her mum to educate and inform others, especially about autism in girls, and to support other parents and children going through similar experiences.
Part-time research associate Billingham is working on a project reducing violence in London. He is also a youth and community worker for Hackney Quest, a charity supporting young people and families in East London.
“It’s been a very tough year for many of the young people I work with, but seeing them flourish in various different ways has been my main highlight,” Billingham tells The Big Issue.
The 30-year-old has also set up several youth-led community initiatives including the Hackney Wick Through Young Eyes research project and Build Up Hackney, a project which gave a team of young people the power to transform a prominent public space. He is also involved with a number of criminal justice charities and has a book, co-authored with Keir Irwin-Rogers, about social harms in the lives of young British people, due to be published in 2022.
University of Aberdeen student Emily Drouet died by suicide in 2016 following an abusive relationship. Her mother Fiona set up the charity EmilyTest in her memory to improve prevention, intervention and support concerning gender-based violence (GBV) in further and higher education.
In 2021, the charity launched a GBV charter with a vision to equip colleges and universities to prevent deaths like Emily’s. It has been piloting the scheme with the hope of funding for further rollout across universities and colleges in Scotland in the future.
Men at Work is tackling problematic behaviours by delivering training for young men to challenge sexism, support healthy personal development and foster violence-free relationships. The community interest company’s core training is a programme called 10 Dialogues, which provides boys and young men with a space to reflect, learn and make crucial decisions about what it means to be a man.
“All boys and young men deserve to have a choice about the values and beliefs they want to carry with them through life,” says founder Michael Conroy, who has worked in secondary education for more than 16 years.
The programme has won several awards. In 2021, Men at Work was a co-sponsor of the first global conference on the conflict between porn and effective sex education in schools. Conroy tells The Big Issue “2022 looks busy”. Besides delivering 10 Dialogues he will be facilitating Becoming Respectful, a perpetrator intervention programme, with Manchester Women’s Aid. Conroy is also writing a book for teachers working with boys and young men.
Isabella de George
Positive Changes in Placements was founded by Izzy de George, whose brother Harrison took his own life in December 2020. The campaign urges universities to improve wellbeing and update policies for placement students. Harrison was a placement student in Manchester training to be a maths teacher when he died.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who is de George’s MP, has backed the campaign, which wants all universities in the UK to review its policies for placement students, including the placement notifying the university if the student does not show up for work after one day, trying to contact the student and, if that fails, contacting their next-of-kin. De George tells The Big Issue she hopes to grow the campaign in 2022.
“Nobody should feel unsafe walking home,” said friends Rachel Chung and Alice Jackson when they founded Strut Safe following the murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021. Since then, the free non-judgemental volunteer service works to help people walk home safely.
The organisation has got more than 50 volunteers across the UK, meaning it is able to offer women and other marginalised groups free walks home. They also have a free phone service that covers the UK. Users can call up to request an escort home or for someone to remain on the phone while they are walking home.
Right Track Social Enterprise
Nick Parr from Right Track Social Enterprise says that the gap between people who are long-term unemployed and those in the workforce is bigger than ever. With many services closed, many are experiencing isolation and struggling with motivation and poor mental health. Building on over 10 years of working within the communities of Nottingham, including delivering food parcels and medicines during the height of the pandemic, Right Track Social Enterprise has been able to help where others can’t.
This year, 165 people have gained qualifications with the organisation, including mental health awareness courses and business training for people who are unemployed, workers who want to upskill and employers. In association with Big Issue Invest, they offer free, flexible training and have even provided IT access to help people access their courses online.