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2016-2017 Annual report

This has been a very exciting year for all of us involved with LifeJackets. We offered our first reading challenge to children in Lewisham schools and were delighted by the number of children who took part as well as the level of thought overwhelmingly evident in their responses.

After considerable thought and preparation LifeJackets became a registered charity using the Charitable Incorporated Organisation structure (foundation model) in May 2017, which helps us face the future with clarity on our purpose, structure and responsibilities.

While visiting schools, we have been privileged to see the effects of the challenge from the children themselves, to hear how they have engaged with the readings and applied what they have encountered to their own lives.

Everything we’ve achieved has been due to the energy, skills and hard work of our team of volunteers, in all roles. On behalf of LifeJackets, thank you. On behalf of myself, thank you for making this year so enjoyable.

We look forward to sharing imaginative books and transformative poems in the next year.

– Carrie Comfort
Founder and Chair of Trustees

Download our Annual Report (PDF)

LifeJackets’ Aims

To promote understanding among children and young people of those who may be considered ‘other’

To foster greater awareness of social, global and ethical issues in a hopeful, empowering and age-appropriate way

To encourage and equip young people to develop their own ethical code

And to inspire a love of reading, which is a pathway to all of the these.

About us

LifeJackets consists of a board of four trustees, one patron and eight additional volunteers who have helped us with: designing our brand and website, sourcing books and poems, creating materials, website development and security, fundraising advice & support. 

Trustees are appointed by existing trustees, as set out in our constitution.

Our Registered Charity number is: 1172824.

Our trustees and patron

Carrie Comfort
Chair of Trustees

Bettina Carlyon

Diana Tutt


Caroline Humphries

Sally Nicholls

The ledger

Our income this year was £1,510 from an L&Q grant and individual donations.

We spent £1,423 on our charitable activities.

The trustees regularly review the level of reserves maintained by the charity and believe that they are at a sufficient level.

Thank you

We are very grateful to London & Quadrant and all the individuals who have generously supported us to offer our first reading challenge during this period.

We especially wish to express our gratitude to Roger McGough and James Carter, for permission to reproduce and share their excellent poems without charge.

We are extremely grateful to our patron Sally Nicholls for donating an author visit, which provided an opportunity to over 100 children in key stage 2, at Kender Primary School in New Cross, to learn about being a writer and develop their own story-making skills.

Our additional thanks to:

  • Voluntary Action Lewisham
  • Lewisham Education Arts Network
  • the Small Charities Coalition
  • the Education Department of Lewisham Council
  • Action for Refugees in Lewisham
  • Beckenham Waitrose team and customers.

And especially all the schools, teachers and children who put time, effort and creativity into taking part.

The 2017 challenge: ‘Home’

Why did we do this work?

In 2015, 1.6 million children1 were living in housing that was overcrowded, temporary or run-down. 2,673 children2 lived in temporary accommodation in Lewisham alone. In March 2016, Crisis found street homelessness had risen by 10% in London from the previous year3.

In late 2015, we surveyed teachers and youth workers, primarily from London. Of these, 79% thought the children they work with worried about housing problems and 68% thought their charges worried about belonging.

Over 90% thought participating in a project such as LifeJackets would benefit the children they work with. When asked what would appeal to them about LifeJackets, over 80% of respondents particularly valued:

  • ‘an opportunity for children [we] work with to gain an increased understanding of others’ and
  • ‘a forum for discussing issues that may be of concern to the children in a gentle,
    non-confrontational way’

The result

We were thrilled to exceed our targets when more than 230 children took part in our first reading challenge, open to schools to run with their key stage 2 students. Our theme was ‘Home’, divided into three sessions, each with readings, a Lesson Plan and an Activity Sheet (shown below).

1. Shelter, 2015. 2. Statutory homelessness live tables, gov.uk, Q3 2015. 3. Crisis, 2016

Our Lesson Plans gave teachers a choice of texts, discussion points and everything they would need to plan a lesson


Our Activity Sheets helped children reflect on their views, having read the story or poem, and taken part in discussion



Refuge & migration

We invited children to think about the experience of being new at school, through considering how to welcome a new girl from far away. In response, the children thought carefully about what can help when you are new and how others may feel, often drawing on their own experiences. Responses provided a masterclass in kindness and welcome, suggesting a range of practical ways to help newcomers adapt to school. We are seeking to share these wonderful tips widely.

Neighbourhood & belonging

Children reflected on where they feel at home, and what makes them feel that way – self-learning they can use to build and access support for themselves. They told us about the communities that nurture and support them, the range of places they belong and the importance of the personal relationships and history which often inspire the sense
of belonging.

We were delighted by the positive reactions to the poems selected. All schools used poetry for some of the challenge, with some using poetry for all their texts. We will look at how we can build on this brilliant reaction and increase our inclusion of poetry in future challenges.

Our impact

We measured our challenge by:

  • running a teacher evaluation by post and online
  • holding two group interviews with children who took part
  • reviewing children’s responses contained in competition entries.

Teachers who completed our evaluation thought that the children they worked with had thought about ‘home’ in a way they hadn’t before. We mapped evaluation questions to our aims (see above) and are pleased to see how frequently they have been met (see table).

Teachers surveyed told us:

  • our activities were accessible
  • children found them interesting and enjoyable
  • they would run it again
  • it was well organised.

Two thirds said it gave them a different view of the children.

Ten of the 12 child participants we spoke to in focus groups said they thought differently as a result of taking part in the activities, the majority thinking very differently, and often making a direct link between a problem affecting others and their own ability to help..

Our feedback confirms that LifeJackets has enabled schools to talk about difficult issues which children often won’t have chances to address elsewhere.

What’s next?

We’ll be taking the advice of children who took part in the ‘Home’ reading challenge and offering it across the country. One child said: “I think that they will enjoy talking about how to help people and how to stand up for them if they need help.”

We will also seek funds to develop another reading challenge, on a theme to be announced. 

The core of our work will be growing our team and building our networks. We’ll be communicating with schools and supporters, to get our resources into the classrooms where they are needed, equipping children to develop as empowered and compassionate ethical citizens, as they create the Britain of the future.

See the different ways you can support us.