FOUR North-East students have received letters of commendation for their part in a town-wide vodcast to raise awareness of hate crimes.

The group, from Longfield Academy, Darlington, were invited to join a live vodcast being produced by Martin Webster, Workforce Development Manager with Darlington Borough Council, during Hate Crime Week in October.

Along with Longfield Academy’s Emotional Wellbeing Officer, Claire Howlett, the Year 10 and 11 students, Ellie Rush, Jessica Wood, Kaitlin Meikle, and Holly Rutherford, answered questions about how hate crimes are handled in a school setting.

“We were quite nervous beforehand,” admitted Holly, “but were more comfortable by the end.”

In the letters from Relationships Education and Sexual Health Coordinator for Darlington, Catherine Shaw, who also took part in the vodcast, the girls were thanked for their valuable input, saying that the vodcast will be shared with other schools, young people and professionals.

Catherine also wrote:  “Throughout the session I was overwhelmed by how passionate you were about the topics covered and what a difference you wanted to make for young people, including yourself, your peers and children yet to grow up.”

The students are already part of the school’s SMILE group, which works to promote equality and understanding of LGBTQ issues, in schools and the local community.

They said that they want to raise awareness of the group, and to be able to go into other schools with the message that no-one needs to cope alone, and that there are people out there to offer help and support.

Longfield Academy headteacher, Nick Lindsay, said: “Our hashtag – We are Longfield, we are Proud – encompasses our inclusive and visionary attitude to modern society. We support a wide variety of initiatives and projects to enhance our commitment to equality of opportunity, tolerance and aspiration for all members of our wider community.” 

Also taking part in the vodcast were Benjamin Scott, Diverse Communities Support Office with Durham Constabulary covering Darlington and working around the field of Hate Crime; and Councillor Darrien Wright, Darlington Borough Council’s LGBT Ambassador.

The vodcast can be seen at