Charity's caring campaign to transform the way in which children with disfigurements are perceived and treated by their peers
“I’d kill myself if I had a face like yours.”
At just ten years old, Marcus was met with these devastating and unforgettable words uttered by a fellow pupil at his school. And why? Simply because he was born with a cleft lip and palate. It is for unthinkable situations like this that the Changing Faces charity exists.
It aims to help people who have a disfigurement find a way to live the life they want through supportive, friendly, positive and inspiring means.
In Marcus’s case, Changing Faces got involved after his mother contacted them, and the charity supported them both to build their resilience and confidence and, with their consent, made contact with the school to transform its culture and improve its anti-bullying practices.
The support and resources provided to schools is one of the key tools Changing Faces uses in its work to change the way people with disfigurements are treated by their peers.
As part of its caring campaign to empower these individuals and help them define their own sense of identity and realise their dreams, it wants every teacher to have the same level of ambition for a student’s future, whether they have a disfigurement or not.
A recent survey by Changing Faces, entitled Disfigurement in the UK, found that four in ten adults with a disfigurement say their appearance affected their attainment at school, and half said it impacted on their aspiration to stay in education post-16.
Therefore, the charity’s schools project is a vital part of its wider campaign to ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally irrespective of appearance. Half of the survey respondents experienced bullying at school.
Worryingly, 57.8 per cent of those respondents who were bullied in primary school said that the school knew but only 27.4 per cent of schools did anything to stop the bullying.
And in secondary schools, respondents said only 18.4 per cent did anything to stop the bullying.
In a bid to reverse these statistics, last year Changing Faces was invited to visit 53 schools across Scotland to deliver its face equality workshops to teachers and pupils. Workshops are evaluated before and after to gauge their level of effectiveness.
Before the workshops, 34 per cent of pupils said that they would be unsure or wouldn’t know where to look or how to behave if they met someone with a disfigurement.
After the workshop, only 7 per cent said they didn’t know or felt unsure. Teachers also reported significant benefits from the Changing Faces workshops.
Seventy per cent of participants said they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “before the training I did not feel skilled or confident supporting the psychological and social needs of pupils with disfigurement”.
After the workshop, 90 per cent agreed with the statement that “after the training I feel more skilled and confident supporting the psychological and social needs of pupils with disfigurement”.
Changing Faces’ Schools Outreach Officer delivers these free Face Equality workshops to primary and secondary pupils in order to raise awareness of appearance-related bullying and offer advice on interacting respectfully with someone with a disfigurement. The pupil workshops contribute to the delivery of CfE Health and Wellbeing Experiences and Outcomes and support existing rights-based approaches to learning in schools.
The charity also offers workshops, based on the novel Wonder by RJ Palacio, which explore the issues of appearance-related bullying and face equality via key incidents from the book. The Schools Outreach Officer can deliver free professional learning sessions for staff too, which focus on creating an inclusive learning environment, addressing issues of appearance-related bullying and supporting pupils who have a disfigurement.
Training provided by Changing Faces counts towards teachers’ continued professional development requirements.
If you would like Changing Faces to work with your school, get in touch by calling 0345 450 0640 or email: