Archbishop of York urges children to sing for freedom from modern day slavery


Children and young people across the UK have been offered a helping hand to spot the signs and avoid becoming victims of modern slavery as new schools’ resources were launched today by the Church of England.

Lesson plans and worship materials were announced by The Clewer Initiative, the Church of England’s response to modern slavery, today at Lambeth Palace at an event which also saw the launch of a song competition where schools will be challenged to record their version of a specially-composed Freedom Song. 

The song competition, backed by the Archbishop of York, will be judged by Priest and TV presenter Kate Bottley and children’s author Frank Cottrell-Boyce will see one primary and one secondary school win a day in a professional studio to record their version of the song. They will also win £1,000 in vouchers to fund learning sessions provided by charity Just Enough. 

Last year more than 5,000 potential victims of modern slavery were referred for support in the UK – one in three of them were children. Educating young people about the risk of exploitation through the lesson plans and collective worship material will help to build their resilience in the face of this threat. 

Schools resources are available to download now, created in conjunction with the charity Just Enough Group. With lesson plans for five key stages and collective worship materials for Primary and Secondary schools, the resources and song can be a key step in enabling all of the UK’s young people to become courageous advocates calling for an end to modern slavery and avoiding becoming victims themselves.  

The resources and competition are now available to all schools across the country, and are free to download.

A version of The Freedom Song has already been recorded by the choir of St Mary’s School in Pulborough, Sussex.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said: “I hope schools across the UK will welcome this opportunity to sing for freedom, while learning about how to end modern slavery. In my work with young people I am always amazed and encouraged by their passion and commitment to working towards a better world. I am delighted that this song competition, and the accompanying modern slavery schools resources, will enable young people to bring their enthusiasm and dedication to this urgent topic.”

Church of England priest Rev Kate Bottley, said “The Freedom Song competition gives children and young people such a good opportunity to learn about modern slavery and use their voices to advocate for freedom. The talent and passion of our nation’s children is incredible, and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with!”

Speaking at the launch of the resources was Clare Gollop, the Programme Director for the National Police Chiefs Council’s Modern Slavery Portfolio, overseeing the Modern Slavery Police Transformation programme. She praised the song competition and the resources as an opportunity to protect young people, saying “The Freedom Song and the modern slavery resources will help open up difficult but necessary conversations, helping educators protect those who are most vulnerable. At the same time, they encourage even further the strength, resilience and problem-solving potential of our young people. Their self-awareness, commitment to equality and consumer habits offer us hope for a future in which slavery and exploitation have no place.”

On the release of their version of The Freedom Song, Headteacher of St Mary’s School, Pulborough, Sam Copus said “Our pupils always relish learning about their world and how they can change it for the better. Singing The Freedom Song has helped them to gain a deeper understanding of human rights and modern slavery and have fun at the same time! I hope many other schools will take up the challenge of recording a new version of the song and using the modern slavery schools resources, so that together we can raise awareness of this horrible crime amongst all the UK’s young people.”

The Clewer Initiative's work to date includes the launch of a now widely used mobile phone app allowing users to report suspicious activity around car washes and other working environments where individuals are known to be at risk of exploitation.

More details about the resources and competition can be found here

Notes for editors:


  • According to the International Labour Organisation, there are over 10 million children trapped in modern slavery around the world. 
  • Children are enslaved in many different industries. Some may be trafficked for sex, while others are forced to work in manual labour for long hours with no pay. Others may be forced into marriage, or made to work as domestic servants in someone’s home.
  • The Clewer Initiative was launched in October 2017 with the backing of the Prime Minister Theresa May and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The three-year programme is working to help the Church of England's 42 dioceses support victims of modern slavery and identify the signs of exploitation in their local communities.
  • Just Enough Group began five years ago when the founder, Phil Knight, heard about modern slavery and knew that he needed to do something about it. He began going into primary schools, teaching children about modern slavery. His work in schools grew into Just Enough UK which has now branched out into teaching about other tough topics like hate crime and radicalisation. They have recently launched a sister organisation in the United States.
  • The Freedom Song was written by Just Enough Group founder Phil Knight.