A teenager has organised a successful equalities event for fellow students.

Joseph Pascoe, a student at Atlantic Academy on Portland, arranged for a host of local speakers to give talks on their experiences of living with one of the protected characteristics of the Equalities Act.

The student is the equalities lead for the student’s leadership team at the school and is a member of Portland Youth Council, which is facilitated by the Island Community Action (ICA), a local charity that support the local community through activities and services.

Alongside individuals from the island’s community, the charity was able to secure the support of local specialist organisations, including Volunteer Centre Dorset and Dorset Council’s Refugee Resettlement Team.

They spoke about their experiences regarding age, disability, gender, race and religion. 

To ensure that each guest’s lived experiences, good and bad, were discussed, Joseph circulated a series of questions in advance, all of which were designed to demonstrate how the challenges individuals face have impacted their lives and also what students and the wider community can do to reduce incidents of discrimination.

Dorset Echo: Joseph said, "I found all the speakers really interesting. It made me think about how the things I take for granted can be incredibly challenging for others.

“For example, the difficulties those with disabilities can face accessing everyday services like transport; how challenging life in Dorset can be from an Afghan refugee’s perspective; or how frightening it can be for someone sharing their preferred gender identity with friends and family.

Dorset Echo:

“It was also really interesting listening to how different life has been for those talking about age, especially how technology, like telephones, has changed the way in which young people communicate and socialise over time.

“I hope that the day has helped others to consider their own preconceptions and prejudices. I'd like to thank all the speakers for giving up their time to take part."

Dorset Echo: Mairead Smith, PSRE Lead at Atlantic Academy said, "We're really grateful to all of the people who came to be speakers today.

"We teach the importance of the Equalities Act, but it’s much more powerful to hear the personal stories of people with lived experience. 

"We've had some great feedback already, with teachers and pupils reporting that the speakers delivered some really thought provoking presentations."

ICA’s CEO, Kim Wilcocks, said, "ICA is committed to delivering training and engagement opportunities for young people in Portland. We also value the chance to celebrate Portland’s diverse communities, particularly as a route to increased community cohesion and reduced isolation and loneliness. So, we were delighted to help Joseph by identifying and coordinating 14 speakers willing to share their knowledge and experience across five of the nine protected characteristics: age, disability, race or religion, gender reassignment, and sexual orientation."