Annual Conference 2023 Press Release - Leslee Udwin

Heralding the cause, world renowned filmmaker, activist and the founder of the global charity Think Equal Leslee Udwin speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Virtual School Heads


HEADTEACHERS have won high praise from a world renowned filmmaker and activist for championing the cause of the country’s most vulnerable learners.

Leslee Udwin, the founder of the global charity Think Equal, set herself a mission to create a safe, free, and equal world through an early years social and emotional learning programme for wellbeing, mental health, social justice and positive life outcomes. The educational initiative currently reaches more than 250,000 children across 23 countries.

She told the annual conference of the National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH) in Manchester: “You are among the most important people, doing work of such power, nurturing our most vulnerable children, so I just want to thank you for what you do every day. I am in awe. You are at the coalface of a better world.”

She also praised Greater Manchester Combined Authority for investing in the charity’s toolkit, developed by 25 global experts, which cultivates 25 emotional and social skills. “These are visionary people,” she said. “Why would we not roll this out to all children.”

Around 400 delegates attending the ‘Building Relationships and Enabling System Change’ conference, at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, heard how the maker of East is East had given up filmmaking to become an activist.

“My last film was India’s Daughter, telling the story of the gang rape and murder of a young girl on a moving bus which stopped our hearts,” she said. “I don’t make them anymore because films only create awareness and I will spend all my life taking action.”

Leslee persuaded the director general of the prison housing the rapists to allow her to interview the six men. “I wanted to look into their eyes and try and understand what kind of human being does this to another,” she recalled.

“It was the darkest journey of my life but also the most luminous,” she said. “In 31 hours of interviews there was no remorse in these men. But how can you argue with a robot and expect him to express remorse?

“These men and other perpetrators of violence are programmed and devoid of the tools and the supportive strength needed to understand that everyone has equal value.”

She said the violence and abuse were symptoms of a discriminatory mindset and education was the ‘vaccination’. “No human was born hating another and has to be taught to hate and these men had been taught to hate,” said Leslee. “If you can be taught to hate you can be taught to love and I realised we need to teach our children to love in a way that will last the rest of their lives.”

She said this had to be done before the age of six as 90 per cent of the adult brain developed by the age of five. “If you take seriously your duty of care then how you value another human being cannot be optional,” she said. “Every single child is unique with special needs so lesson one should be celebrating difference.”