Youth social action and the experience of primary educators

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How can we better understand the experience of primary educators in youth social action?

In June 2022, we launched our Third Benefit Enquiry project, a 12-month enquiry to explore this very question. Our aim? To shine a light on the experiences and potential benefits for primary school educators involved in high-quality youth social action.

By youth social action we mean where children (in this case primary-aged pupils) take practical actions such as campaigning, raising awareness, fundraising, or giving their time in some way, to make a difference in their community or wider society with the support of their school and educators.

There are lots of ways in which young people can take practical action to make a positive difference. It can take place in a range of contexts and can mean formal or informal activities. These include volunteering, fundraising, campaigning or supporting peers. Young people don’t have to try and save the world on their own. Taking small positive actions to improve your home, school or local community can all make a big difference.

Pears #iwill Fund

Too often the narrative is focused on educators as blockers to social action. Sometimes the experiences of these educators supporting youth social action are even brushed out. Through our research, we aim to better appreciate how involving primary school teachers in high-quality youth social action opportunities can inform and shape what meaningful benefits for teachers, alongside pupils and communities, might involve.

Our third benefit research

The first phase of our enquiry seeks to establish what evidence already exists on this third benefit through a rapid literature review. We're also looking for your input as we seek to shed light on best practices.

We found from our previous research, Citizens on Now, that despite there being some evidence that starting youth social action before the age of ten has the potentially biggest benefits for pupils and communities, there is very little research exploring high-quality youth social action with primary-age pupils. There is even less evidence exploring how primary educators experience positive benefits from being involved in youth social action alongside pupils in their communities.

To amplify the voices and experiences of educators involved in primary youth social action, we will undertake in-depth research through interviews, surveys, workshops, and case studies with primary school educators and delivery organisations involved in primary youth social action.

Our guiding research questions will help structure our enquiry and our fieldwork will help us answer the following:

  1. What do we mean by a potential third benefit to youth social action? Does this relate to individual educators and the wider school community, and what are the benefits?
  2. What motivates educators and schools to engage in social action in the primary phase?
  3. How do teachers experience high-quality youth social action? From Citizens of Now, we know educators grow and learn when taking on a facilitator role in youth social action but is there clustered learning across different approaches?
  4. What is the relationship between benefits for teachers and benefits for pupils and communities? How do they interrelate and are the benefits reinforcing or mutually exclusive?
  5. What are the facilitating and inhibiting factors to implementing youth social action that has benefits for educators alongside pupils and communities?
The Third Benefit - RSA project

Call for excellent youth social action examples

This is where you come in. We know there are many examples of excellent of youth social action being driven by primary schools and their staff, and we want to hear from you about your experiences. 

Over the coming weeks, we will gather evidence from primary phase schools and organisations supporting these schools to deliver youth social action in the UK. We are interested in different contexts and approaches supporting high-quality primary youth social action that has benefits for teachers alongside pupils and communities.

By using the form below to share your practice, you will be helping inform this research. We will use the information you provide to identify examples of good practice from schools and organisations and may invite you to participate in our research fieldwork in the autumn such as workshops, interviews, or ask to feature your case study in our final project report.

Have your say in our research

We want to hear examples of primary schools delivering youth social action as part of their learning programme.

You can also email [email protected] if you have any questions about the enquiry.

We look forward to hearing about your experiences and working with you very soon. If you’re able to provide your own insight you’ll be joining some well-known names that are part of our project advisory board as collaborators on the Third Benefit programme.

You can read about the make-up of this advisory board on the Third Benefit project page.


This work is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Pears #iwill Fund.

  • The Pears #iwill Fund is created by Pears Foundation, and match funded by the #iwill Fund, a £54 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities.
  • The #iwill Fund brings together a group of organisations who all contribute funding to embed meaningful social action into the lives of young people.
  • Social action involves activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering, all of which enable young people to make a positive difference in their communities as well as develop their own skills and knowledge.
  • The #iwill Fund supports the aims of the #iwill movement to make involvement in social action a part of life for young people, by recognising the benefit for both young people and their communities.
  • By bringing together funders from across different sectors and by making sure that young people have a say in where the funding goes –the #iwill Fund is taking a collaborative approach.

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