Half-day training event

Engaging boys to make positive life choices

Boys conference resized image
As part of our ongoing conversation around ‘Supporting Boys’, this half-day training seminar will offer a particular focus on how to support and guide boys to make positive life choices.

With an emphasis on sharing ideas, experiences and good practice, the event will explore the following key themes:

  • The importance of engaging boys in school and learning and the potential risks if we do not
  • Support and guidance boys may require as they develop into adulthood
  • The importance of role models, including peer role models
  • Working in partnership with parents and carers
  • Case studies from schools incorporating ‘Engaging Boys’ into their curriculum


GRAHAM GOULDEN, Director, Cultivating Minds UK
ANNE O’DONNELL, Head Teacher, St Patrick’s R.C. Primary School (Denny)
DAVID DEVENNEY, Development Manager, Fathers Network Scotland
ELEANOR CONER, Partnership Development Officer, Connect (formerly known as Scottish Parent Teacher Council)
MVP MENTORS at Fettes College and George Heriot’s School
EMMA DEMPSEY, Founder, Forth Coaching
NICK THORPE, Head of Communications, Fathers Network Scotland
PHAIDRAIG TIERNEY, Community Development Worker & Peer Mentor
At our ‘Supporting Boys’ conference in February, we explored a range of welfare issues from the particular perspective of boys. Across issues such as stress, negative body image, low self-esteem and eating disorders as well as the growing problems of sexting, misogynistic attitudes and behaviours, and the general sexualisation of young people, boys can often be regarded as part of the problem, a catalyst for these trends and not part of the culture of suffering too, with their own complex issues, pressures and challenges.

As a direct follow-on from these discussions, we are developing a series of half-day seminars aimed at offering those who work with boys the opportunity to share ideas, experiences and examples of how we can ensure boys are fully engaged and supported in these areas and, through such empowerment, are better able to make the right choices.


Registration and arrival refreshments

Session One – Going beyond the stereotypes

Chair’s Welcome and Introduction
David Devenney, Head of Programmes (Forces, Prisons and Faith), Fathers Network Scotland

Celebrating Boys: engaging and nurturing the best in our boys

  • Understanding the vulnerability of boys
  • What boys’ tell us they need in order to thrive
  • From toxic masculinity to Hero’s Journey – practical strategies for helping boys flourish (with a focus on emotional literacy)

Interactive session led by Nick Thorpe, Head of Communications, Fathers Network Scotland & Emma Dempsey, Founder, Forth Coaching

Escaping the box

  • Where do boys and girls learn to be men and women
  • The media is the message and the messenger
  • Stereotypes need discussed but they are not who we are

Interactive session led by Graham Goulden, Director, Cultivating Minds UK

Tea and coffee break, opportunities for networking

Session Two – Approaches to help engage boys

The power of the role model and the benefits of a peer-to-peer programme to engage all to participate

  • The role of Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) in influencing positive behaviours in a school
  • The types of subjects covered within MVP
  • The role of MVPs in the school setting
  • The benefits of the MVP programme to mentors and fellow students

MVP Mentors from George Heriot’s school and Fettes College

Parental engagement – Encouraging involvement in children’s learning

  • The importance of parental engagement
  • How parents can make an impact
  • Resources to assist
  • Featuring a case study from St Patrick’s R.C. Primary School in Denny on their ‘Getting Dads Involved’ programme

Joint presentation by Eleanor Coner, Partnership Development Officer, Connect (formerly Scottish Parent Teacher Council) & Anne O’Donnell, Head Teacher, St Patrick’s R.C. Primary School (Denny)

Lived experience of Adverse Childhood Experience and my journey

  • ACEs journey and support
  • Community of support in making the right choices
  • Male role models

Phaidraig Tierney, Community Development Worker & Peer Mentor

Panel and audience discussion
Featuring all our speakers, this open and interactive forum will discuss what has been raised throughout the morning. What lessons can we take forward into our work or home life to ensure boys have the best environment and confidence to grow?

Chair’s Round-up and Closing Remarks

Graham Goulden
Graham Goulden, Director, Cultivating Minds UK
Graham Goulden, BA, is an experienced and committed violence prevention trainer. For thirty year’s he was a Scottish police officer and Chief Investigator specialising in criminal investigation, drug investigation, training and crime prevention. For the last eight years of his policing career he was a key member of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (www.actiononviolence.org.uk).

In 2010 Graham introduced The Mentors in Violence Prevention Programme (MVP) into high schools across Scotland, successfully handing over the overall lead to Education Scotland in 2017. MVP is a leader in bystander education in the United States (www.mvpstrat.com). Graham continues to support MVP development in Scotland as well as being a trainer for the US MVP organisation.

In addition, he has conducted numerous trainings and keynote speeches in Scotland, England, Wales, Sweden, and in the United States. In addition to conducting bystander trainings, Graham has expert knowledge and experience in embedding violence prevention programmes within local government, and has been able to build sustainable models for the longer term.

Graham has delivered prevention trainings in many different settings including high schools, colleges, universities, in work places, in prisons, with military and police and with professional and amateur sports in the UK and United States. Graham has worked with many different individuals and groups using bystander activities to engage audiences in the prevention of violence. Graham has worked with hairdressers, dentists, vets, fire officers, police & prison officers, bar & security staff, the military as well as in local communities.

Graham is a passionate advocate of the MVP Programme and the bystander approach. He is committed to engaging individuals making it clear that we all have a role in the prevention of violence in our communities. Since retiring from the police service he has set up the organisation ‘Cultivating Minds UK’ with the primary aim of starting conversations in many different settings and communities to promote healthy relationships and successful outcomes. He continues to work with the violence reduction unit in prevention work across Scotland and the UK.

Graham holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice Studies and a Certificate in Training from Napier University, Edinburgh. He lives with his family near Edinburgh.

Anne O’Donnell, Head Teacher, St Patrick’s R.C. Primary School (Denny)
Anne has been in the teaching profession for almost 40 years after graduating in 1979 from Craiglockhart College of Education in Edinburgh. Anne was a classroom practitioner for 20 years before entering into Management. Anne was appointed Assistant Head in St Patrick’s RC Primary School and spent four years in this post.

In 2003 she was appointed Head Teacher of St Patrick’s – a very proud moment for Anne, as St Patrick’s was the school she attended as a child.

The work she has done with the boys and their male carers has been recognised both locally and nationally and the practice has been shared at several events led by SPTC and Education Scotland.

David Devenney
David Devenney, Head of Programmes (Forces, Prisons and Faith), Fathers Network Scotland
David Devenney served as a police officer in Glasgow for four years before joining the Royal Marine Commandos in 1981. He saw combat service during the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982, later working in a staff position in the Ministry of Defence and NATO headquarters. After a brief stint studying theology and serving as a parish minister in the Church of Scotland, he became a Commando-trained Padre on the staff of the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines and later Chaplain to the Special Boat Service (SBS), serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the service in 2009, he worked as team leader in a prison project for a UK charity, teaching life skills and personal development to inmates in three High Security prisons. He is a dad to two grown-up children and a hands-on grandad.

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Eleanor Coner, Partnership Development Officer, Connect (formerly known as Scottish Parent Teacher Council
Eleanor Coner is Partnership Development Officer at Connect (formerly known as Scottish Parent Teacher Council). Connect is a national membership organisation which provides support and advice to parents and carers as well as Parent Councils. The organisation also works with teaching professionals and others to help develop partnerships in schools.

Eleanor has worked for the organisation for over 12 years but started as a volunteer parent member of the Board nominated by the PTA at her sons’ primary school so she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience of how families may work effectively in partnership with the school to help support their child’s learning. As a parent of three sons she is also aware of the many challenges boys and young men often face in Scotland.

Emma Dempsey, Founder, Forth Coaching
Emma Dempsey has worked in health and development for over twenty years with a focus on addressing inequalities. As founder of Forth Coaching she frequently works with men around gender roles, unpicking a lifetime of ideas first introduced in boyhood about what it means to be male. Emma also works with parents around raising their boys and hosts an online platform to support mums of boys with over 1000 members. Having lost a male family member to suicide, and as mother to two sons, Emma is a passionate advocate for raising boys positively in a culture that enables them to flourish.

Nick Thorpe, Head of Communications, Fathers Network Scotland
Nick Thorpe is an award-winning writer, speaker, campaigner and coach. He has journeyed to Easter Island on a home-made reed boat, and has written three books including Adrift in Caledonia, which was serialised on BBC Radio 4. But he undertook the biggest adventure of them all when he became an adoptive dad. Now a speaker on subjects ranging from risk-taking to the crisis of masculinity, he’s passionate about the emotional development of men and boys as a win-win for gender equality, spear-heading the Scottish Government’s award-winning Year of the Dad campaign in 2016 as head of communications for Fathers Network Scotland.

Phaidraig Tierney, Community Development Worker & Peer Mentor

Registration for this event has now closed.


Private sector rate
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Public sector rate
(Central government departments and agencies, local authorities, NHS, police, universities and colleges etc.)

Third sector rate
(Charities, voluntary and community groups, tenant and patient groups, professional bodies, trade unions etc)

SPECIAL RATES (note: other promotional offers, including early bird discounts, are not valid with special rates)

Schools rate
Available to all attendees from schools

COSLA Conference Centre,
Verity House,
19 Haymarket Yards,
EH12 5BH

Tel: +44 (0)131 474 9200

COSLA Conference Centre


By Rail, Haymarket Station.
Approximately 5 minutes walk.

By Air, Edinburgh Airport.
Approximately 15 minutes away.

By car…

Directions to and from COSLA