Conference tackles discrimination

Littlehampton mayor Billy Blanchard-Cooper with head girl Gemma Legg and David Vaitulevicius
Littlehampton mayor Billy Blanchard-Cooper with head girl Gemma Legg and David Vaitulevicius

Discrimination and prejudice were discussed at a European conference held at The Littlehampton Academy.

The gathering of students and staff four nations this morning was part of the More Powerful Together project, funded by the EU.

Organiser Paul Sanderson, school chaplain, said the academy was invited to take part and EU funding of 42,000 euros made it possible to travel to work together and learn from each other.

He was in the process of setting up an LGBTU support group for his Littlehampton students and said it tied in perfectly with the work the school was doing.

The academy has been hosting 19 students and ten staff from Norway, Turkey and Reunion, the French island in the Indian Ocean, for a week of discussions and social activities.

Vice-principal Bianca Greenhalgh said: “We have had an excellent week with our visitors. Our students have done us proud. I think the experience has been a positive one and we look forward to sending our students out to have a similar experience abroad.”

Each country was given a different topic to investigate and students presented their findings at the conference, in front of special guests including Littlehampton mayor Billy Blanchard-Cooper and a group from River Beach Primary School.

Mr Blanchard-Cooper said: “Discrimination comes in all ways and forms, and covers every difference imaginable. Sometimes it is good to embrace how people are different and celebrate how people are individual.

“I have seen many changes in society and I hope that in time, changes such as these will build equality for all and that should be mirrored across other countries.

“This is such an important subject. We have got to move on with things. It doesn’t matter what type of discrimination, we have to work together and from an early age, so it has been good to see representatives from River Beach taking part.

“I have learned loads and everyone is going to take something away from this. It has a ripple effect.”

The French group looked at racism, homophobia and sexism. The 14-year-olds said they did not have much experience of these, even though their parents came from different cultures and different backgrounds.

“We live peacefully together, without any prejudice and no discrimination,” they said.

Students from Turkey, who looked at refugees, said their school had all different cultures and they supported them to adapt, helping them to socialise by arranging get-togethers.

Students from Norway looked at body shaming and mental health. They said it was important to target these issues, including changing the fundamental way the perfect body was portrayed in the media.

The English team looked at LGBTU and head girl Gemma Legg, 16, explained key moments in its history.

David Vaitulevicius, 16, who helped to lead the conference, said: “The biggest issue is coming out, basically telling friends or family, which can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. We are forming a support group to try to combat discrimination.”

He also featured in a video, interviewing Katie Vincent, business manager at Allsorts Youth Project, about attitudes to LGBTU.

Katie said: “Some people say they don’t understand. For me, it is not about understanding it, it is about respecting other people.”

Various questions were put to the conference for discussion and it was ended with a question and answer session.

In conclusion, Gemma said: “It is okay for people to have their own opinions but when people are being disrespectful, you can challenge them. Don’t be a bystander to abuse.

“You can still be respectful if you are challenging someone. To set an example and make an impression, we need to show the love and respect that we expect back.”


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