Outstanding Community Involvement Award

18th June 2010 at 01:00

Winner: Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate Schools, Tower Hamlets, London

How did a Catholic comprehensive end up managing youth work for a predominantly Muslim area of east London?

The story started seven years ago, not long after the founding of the Bishop Challoner federation, which consists of separate boys, girls and a sixth-form school on one site. In 2003, a time of high racial and religious tensions in UK cities, the schools' buildings had been a target of arson attacks and shots had been aimed at staff through windows.

Rather than walling itself off from its surrounding community, the federation applied for a Home Office grant to run a series of activities for local teenagers. These included a wide range of sports, as well as computing classes and evening lessons for those who speak English as an additional language.

These proved so successful at reducing disruption and vandalism that, when the funding ran out, the schools then bid to Tower Hamlets to run the youth services in their part of the borough.

Since then the schools' work has expanded to offer more opportunities for young people from different religious backgrounds to learn and play together. Youth and sport groups linked to the schools' "Learning Village" have gone to the Middle East, cleaned up local graffiti and played football at the World Youth Cup in Gothia, Sweden.

Judges' verdict: Bishop Challoner's work was "a major undertaking that addressed real problems in its area in a multifaceted and multicultural way", the judges said. The Learning Village had played a key role in reducing crime and vandalism, and improving understanding between young people of different backgrounds. "It is extremely difficult to measure the impact of community work, but Bishop Challoner had the evidence to show it had made a difference."

Highly Commended

St Michael's Primary Glenmanor Primary, Moodiesburn near Glasgow

The schools marked the 50th anniversary of a local pit disaster by creating a memorial garden and museum. The judges said the project "connected generations".

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