The story

Through the community-based research in Whitley, a new research group evolved – the ‘Young Researchers’.

With collaborative support from the John Madejski Academy, the Young Researchers were set up to mirror the concept of the Whitley Researchers, but represent and give a voice to young people. The work of the Young Researchers highlights how strongly youth aspirations depend on the following:

  • Place: The ideas, constraints, role models and opportunities that we are exposed to as we grow up shape our choices.
  • Relationships: Positive and collaborative two-way communication with (and between) the people in our lives makes a huge difference to our outlook.
  • Pathways: having aspirations is only part of the story – most of us need a little help in exploring the pathways to fulfilling our dreams too.
  • Voice: Being given the opportunity to speak for ourselves and pursue our own interests
    (with consideration for the interests of others) allows us to develop and thrive as people.
CommunityA.Welcome home
Community.Whitfest Art Workshop

Research journey

As the group’s understanding of their role developed the Young Researchers became increasingly confident with gathering research material from groups that are sometimes quite difficult to reach.  The work of this group continued to evolve as their role within the school and the Whitley community developed.

A series of interactive research activities were designed by the Young Researchers to open up conversations with school students in South Reading. It also traces the journey taken by the Young Researchers through their exploration into the theme of ‘aspiration.’ Find out more about their projects:

An illustration of the research journey for the first group of Young Researchers


Young Researchers’ photography project

Entitled ‘The Place Where I Live,’ the Young Researchers used their cameras to capture the people, places, and events that represented their lives and community.

The Aspiration Game

The Aspiration Game is an interactive board game based on snakes and ladders that helped young people consider what factors hindered and supported their aspirations.

Young Researchers’ Home Building

Students from the John Madejski Academy (later to become Young Researchers) discussed and then constructed their conception of an ‘ideal’ home from giant blocks.


“My time being a young researcher was a very beneficial experience that allowed me to explore my options when choosing my career path. It motivated and enabled me to have a voice for people of my age to help them choose and reach their own aspirations. Being a young researcher was an amazing opportunity as nowadays teenagers’ opinions are discarded due to our age. Therefore, I’m happy as I was able to be part of a group that contributed to making a change in Whitley.” — Kalvin, Young Whitley Researcher

“How effective would it be to put a group of children in charge, to make the greater change, to inspire a movement, to push towards a better Whitley? As a young researcher I know I am the future – working together, working for you.” — Christina, Young Whitley Researcher

“Working in collaboration with the University of Reading has been hugely rewarding for the John Madejski Academy Young Researchers. It has been a delight to see how much engagement and enthusiasm the students have invested in working on a project based around their community. This will no doubt provide useful and tangible evidence for countless stakeholders and inspire those involved to continue their research journey through to University and beyond”  — Laura Ellener, former Headteacher

“It’s hard to believe that they are still only 14 and that they would not have been confident enough a year ago to even consider hosting the kinds of events they do now. As well as this they have developed a clear understanding of their role in shaping their own and others’ future through their individual and collective contributions. The research work undertaken has sparked an interest in them which means that I don’t think the research focus will ever truly end. It is evolving and so are their concerns and aspirations. … The approach works because right from the start the focus has been about avoiding pre-conceived framing of what the issues are.” — Paul Allen, Head of Arts, John Madejski Academy

“I have really enjoyed my time as a young researcher. I have loved hearing people’s different opinions and perspectives and showing that having a voice is extremely important: your opinion matters. The past couple of years have shown me that if you want change you need to be determined and fight for it. My main aim was to help young people have a voice and to always have an opinion no matter what age, race or gender. I never realized how big this project would be and seeing the outcomes makes me proud to be a part of it.” — Talia, Young Whitley Researcher