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Children's Commissioner's Takeover Day

Seven children from two Leeds primary schools took over our communications team for Takeover Day 2012 on Friday 23 November. Children from Bardsey Primary School and Immaculate Heart of Mary Primary School arrived at Leeds Civic Hall ready for work at 10am sharp. They started their day with a visit to the council chamber where they met Councillor Judith Blake, executive board member for children’s services. Cllr Blake spoke about how important it is for children and young people to have a say in decisions that matter to them. The children also heard how elected councillors make plans to improve our city on behalf of everyone who lives here, including plans to make Leeds a child friendly city. 

Before heading up to the communications team office the children had the chance to sit in the Lord Mayor’s chair and say what they would do to improve Leeds. Suggestions included fining over-16s for dropping litter and installing talking bins to encourage people to keep Leeds clean. The children accepted their challenge to come up with a communications campaign to persuade people to stop dropping litter. They also agreed to take photographs and film their progress throughout the day. 

Up in the communications team meeting room, their base for the day, the young communications team members told Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council about their plans to encourage people in Leeds to keep their city clean. Tom set the children yet another challenge, to use Twitter to spread their message about litter and to encourage more people to follow the child friendly Leeds account @child_Leeds. 

After a productive brainstorming session and hearing from some enforcement officers about litter in Leeds, the children came up with some great ideas for their communications campaign. They decided that a punishment, such as a fine, would be the one thing most likely to stop people from littering and that the most effective way to pass on information to lots of people would be to use the internet. 

Twitter turned out to be and important and popular part of the day, with the children using the @child_leeds account to tell people about their anti-litter campaign and also to ask celebrities for follows and re-tweets to boost the number of people following them. 

After lunch, the young communications team members set to work designing images and slogans to encourage people to keep Leeds clean. Lindy from our creative services team was on hand to give expert advice on making the designs clear and eye-catching.

Finally, the children practiced their interviewing skills, asking each other on film what they had learned from the day and what their favourite activity had been. A final check on the child friendly Leeds Twitter feed showed that the children’s efforts had added another 50 people to our list of followers since their first tweet, and the number of followers still growing because of their great work. Thanks to all the children for all their great ideas and for being such enthusiastic communications team members. Thanks also to their teachers for all their help with the day’s tasks. All the council officers who took part in the takeover day activities or met the children commented on how well they responded to their Takeover Day challenges and how professional they were during their time with us – it was a fantastic experience for the team.

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