1. Young People at Risk
A major concern for many SRB schemes is the limited connection between young people and the education system - a clear contributory factor to low levels of educational achievement. The consequences of under-achievement (affecting variously individuals, businesses and communities) include:
The Speke Garston scheme in Liverpool recognises a cycle of mutually-reinforcing factors:
- economic disadvantage;
- a lack of competitiveness;
- poverty; and
- social exclusion.
Tackling the Issues
- parents placing a low value on learning;
- poor core skills;
- poor performance in other areas of curriculum;
- low expectations by parents and teachers;
- low aspirations, reflecting perceptions of local opportunities;
- low motivation;
- low standards of behaviour and attendance;
- little participation in vocational training;
- vulnerability to unemployment; and
- associated poor parenting skills and little contact with schools or involvement in children's learning.
In some areas tackling the linked issues of motivation and disaffection is seen as critical, particularly since these are often associated with non-participation through truancy or exclusion from school, and drop-out after the age of 16.
Key Good Practice Lessons
- In Speke Garston, two projects, from a much wider suite of educational interventions, directly address these concerns.
- Durham's Partnership Scheme for Young People has two linked projects:
- Positive Intervention and Enrichment Links (PIEL) - a multi-strand programme with secondary, primary and special schools to support young people who are at the edge of disaffection, who are under-achieving and may be disrupting classes. Project activities include:
- college-based vocational link courses, including construction, music and business administration;
A PIEL Newsletter reports: 'When one gets a pupil phoning you up to say "Please put my name down to go on the next residential week", closely followed by Mum phoning up saying "What a great time he has had, he is a different person, not been in a scrap of bother", then you know something has been achieved!'
- counselling/anger management;
- positive parenting; and
- out-of-school activities such as residentials with the Army Youth Team and exchange visits.
- Looked After Children (LAC) - aimed at children in care or otherwise involved with Social Services. LAC offers a variety of discreet, customised support to help participants realise their potential. Project activities include:
To support both Durham projects, a comprehensive database has been developed which brings together performance, location, schools, SEN status, exclusion and a range of other issues. The database is shared with partner organisations to improve the support offered.
- group work;
- external visits to book festivals, museums etc;
- activity based workshops;
- training for parents and care workers e.g. so that care workers have a better understanding of education issues; and
- careers advice through a careers outreach officer.
Every children's home in Co. Durham now has an Education Co-ordinator.
Interventions to maintain motivation and to keep at-risk students participating in learning are not restricted to areas of extreme disadvantage. Nor are the fun activities restricted to the disruptive children and those at-risk of exclusion.
- A primary school in Newcastle was sensitive in responding to families' most practical problems, for example:
- supplying alarm clocks where children were late only because they had no means of getting up in time for school as no-one in the household was getting up for work; and
- collecting children where parents were afraid to leave the house unattended or were frightened of being attacked.
- Non-educational interventions can contribute to the achievement of educational goals, provided they are properly structured and integrated within a wider programme.
- Tackling disaffection and demotivation needs a multi-agency approach. 'Joined up thinking' is important, but 'joined up working' and sharing of information between agencies is critical.
- Although some of the projects appear relatively expensive, early identification of problems, early intervention - and, where possible, prevention - can lead to significant savings.
- There is real value in using techniques that integrate emotional issues arising from domestic circumstances and measures to tackle barriers to educational performance.
- Programmes work best where students take part voluntarily and are treated as equal partners. For example, the Durham Young People's scheme is underpinned by the development of a Young People's Council where the young people address the project workers informally and are involved in recruiting the project staff.
- While academic attainment is important, there is also a need to recognise other qualifications attained. While these may be less academic, they are nonetheless major achievements for the young people concerned, particularly where they have special educational needs, have been out of the school system for some time, or simply have very low self-esteem.
- The projects underline the need to develop and support staff in the partnerships - whether in schools or the care system - to enable them to cope with new challenges and to add value.