Verity Slaughter-Penney

Verity Slaughter-Penney is currently working hard with two other Founders to kick start our new charity ‘Youth Mindset’ Youth Mindset is a charity dedicated to helping vulnerable young people (11-25 yrs) with long term mentoring and coaching to stop them from becoming victims of exploitation or knife crime. I have dedicated my entire working career to supporting young people, be that as a Teacher, Headteacher, Special Needs Advocate, or now Charity Co-Founder.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey/venture/initiative and what inspired you to choose this career. 

I was born in Manchester, my father at first was a student, he was studying at Manchester University, having finished his first degree at Hull. My mother did odd jobs like barmaid and secretary, money was always tight in those early years and I learnt to appreciate everything we had. My Dad later became a Teacher and then a Headteacher, but oddly it was not this that inspired me to follow in his footsteps, in fact I wanted to be an artist in graphic design.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

In my later years, 13 yrs + I hated school, we moved around a lot as a family and this meant a lot of new beginnings at a lot of new schools. Always being the ‘new kid on the block‘ is never easy. At my final school in Morecambe I was the victim of regular bullying, I became disheartened and disengaged. School bored me apart from the lessons I enjoyed English Literature and Art and Design. I struggled and came out initially with only 3 O’ Levels ( now GCSE’s ) but was always the youngest in my year group having been born in August. A caring teacher Mr Wilson persuaded me that it would be worthwhile to do three years in the sixth form. He then whispered ( ALL the bullies will have left! ) So I stayed on and came out with 10 O’ Levels and 2 A’ Levels. BUT I felt I had had enough of education and wanted to do anything but go to university. My Mother had other ideas. Mum made me go through the Education Guardian list of universities that still had places and ring them up. I got down to Bedford and asked what courses they had. They had a place on a four year Bachelor of Education Course. That’ll do said Mum, and that was it, I was packed off to Bedford to become a teacher.

Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.

My Goal now is to create a successful and thriving charity with the highest standards in training , support and safeguarding. I love to read and write , paint and draw. I have published my first young persons novella ‘To the Western Front with Love’. and intend ( when I find the time ) to write my first adult Novel ‘The Silken Noose’ a story of The Lancashire Witches. I love my dogs and can be found walking daily in local forests. My Role Models are wide and varied. My Dad has to be first, he is a person that literally puts himself where his principles are, he has been on reforestation brigades in Nicaragua and has helped teachers in Cuba, when you pick my Dad up off a flight he probably will not even have the shoes he left in having given everything he could away to the villagers. Others range from Alan Turing to Nelson Mandela, I like down to earth people too like Guy Martin.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

Starting a Charity from scratch was never going to be easy. I found myself leaning back a lot on my Headship Managerial Skills. There were huge frustrations along the way, getting a charity number from the Charities Commission was probably the biggest hurdle we faced. We had to learn a lot of new skills and understand documents that were couched in very legal language. I’m creative and I enjoy learning new things so I leant on my natural curiosity and looked upon every set back as a fresh challenge. I tend to do my best thinking late into the night and so would often find myself sitting up at 3 a.m. scribbling down solutions to problems. I suppose I would say I cope with large problems that are circulating in my brain by giving my mind time to process them, walking my dogs, taking a cool shower, or just napping until my creative brain has time to think around the problem in hand are all ways I coped.

What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?

WOW, this is a big question, as a Head teacher for 10 years, and a teacher for 20 I would hope I have made an impact on a lot of young lives. As a Voluntary Advocate I know I make an impact on the lives of the young SEND children whose families I support to navigate through the complex systems to support. As a Charity, we are new, but already we have 13 mentors trained ready to match and at least 7 youngsters coming to gain our support. I aim to have 30 + mentors trained by December and hopefully equal numbers of young beneficiaries. We need to grow quickly due to need but also effectively and with the same high standards throughout.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

This is going to sound strange as an answer. I need to explain why I left the Head ship. I was a victim of harassment in my last years as a Head teacher and as a result in August 2017 I suffered a huge mental breakdown, resulting in a diagnosis of PTSD and Acute Anxiety Disorder. It took me two years to get to the top of the list for the EMDR Therapy that my condition needed. I started Therapy in 2019. When Covid 19 hit, for someone with ongoing battles against anxiety it made my life easier!! You see, I didn’t have to be around big crowds, I no longer had to go out to large shops, I could cocoon myself away and no-one noticed. Late 2020 and I found myself working for a charity largely remotely, sadly in 2022 that charity ( that had been terribly mismanaged ) became insolvent. That was when myself and two colleagues decided to ‘do it‘ for ourselves and ‘Youth Mindset’ was born in July 2022 we started to work voluntarily together to set up a better and brighter organisation with integrity and great values.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

I would like to say that my journey gives out several messages. 1. An exam result does not define who you will or are able to become. 2. Mental Illness is debilitating but will never define me as a person or my ability to perform to the highest standards professionally. 3. Money is not always the aim in life, fulfilment and doing something for others is what primarily drives me. 4. People will not remember your possessions, they will remember the mark you made. 5. ( My favourite Alan Turing Quote ) “It’s the people no-one can imagine anything of, that do the things no-one can imagine.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

Women are still a largely hidden force to be reckoned with, when I was a Headteacher the majority of my colleagues were still men, we need to show the world that women have the empathy, passion and desire to change the world for the better. Young People of today have opportunities and support closed off to them, just when they need it most, we need to address gaps in mental health support, gaps in Special Educational Needs Support, gaps in support for those leaving care, gaps in support for those at risk of exploitation. Young People are the future for us all, help them to change themselves one young person at a time and that is how we change the future of the world.

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

Everyone can do something, but no-one can do everything. Allow yourself time, to breathe, to rest, to watch nature, put as much time into your Mental Health as you do into your Physical and Fiscal Health and the rewards will keep on coming.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

We still need wider representation, you only have to look at the benches in the house of commons to see this point. Never be afraid to stand up for your rights as a woman in the workplace, be strong and know your rights, never accept misogynistic views. Women are the powerhouse of our world and our lives. However, when you look for someone to share your space, make sure they are going to be as supportive to you as you are to them.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

You can do anything you put your mind to. I am not particularly or naturally academic, know your talent base, understand the creativity within. You are a force to be reckoned with, grow your own self awareness, try to understand why you speak and react in the ways that you do. LOVE YOURSELF first, no -one else is going to do that for you. Choose a role that makes you happy, self fulfillment is as important as fiscal needs. Being a lifelong learner, I am still learning new things every day. Don’t work with people that think they know all the answers, work with those who are trying to understand the questions, these are the deeper thinking creative and innovators. I hope you enjoyed my story. I do not need to wish you good luck. Because you are womankind. Verity