Posted: Thu, 27 Jun 2019 15:38 by Miss Amy Bird
Two Schools in Birmingham who are using structured sports mentoring programmes with young people on the verge of exclusion have reported improvements in students' abilities and skills to relate to themselves and others.
For children living in deprived communities and struggling with special educational needs in mainstream settings or facing challenging home situations, sport can offer an alternative route to re-engage with school. With growing numbers of exclusions, schools and pupil referral units in Birmingham were searching for something new, so eagerly tried out a new intensive 6–12-week course from Sport Birmingham.
Schools using this innovative approach –delivering relationships education through a completely different part of the curriculum – are reporting big improvements in behaviour, with children learning new ways of coping with stress and taking time to think before reacting to situations. Pupils learn about respect and are beginning to think through consequences, in safe relationships with responsive adults whom they respect.
A team of five runs weekly four-hour sessions for up to 15 young people selected by the school as needing specific support beyond the existing school provision, focusing on areas such as relationships, teamwork, leadership, resilience and responsibility.
The sessions include activities held inside and outside the classroom, and the approach is flexible to let the young people take the lead. The order in which topics are taught depends on group dynamics. Much of the work centres on how the young people conduct themselves in three environments – school, home and the street – and the consequences of actions in each.
The sessions are co-led by youth mentors, who provide positive role models to the students, demonstrating healthy relationships.
One young person says, 'It has encouraged me to avoid fighting and doing stupid or bad stuff offered by friends. The mentors use slang language that I understand, and they know the streets better than us because they have lived through our generation. Talking to them is like talking to a friend! I've learned how to box clever and avoid certain situations.'
The physical activity element itself ranges from football and cricket to dance, and even paintballing or go-karting if funds can be found. For students less interested in traditional sports, the paintballing and go-karting can be used as an opener to help them relax. There are no expectations of skill or competition in any of the activities, but many students do enjoy developing their skills and enjoy the team aspect of some sports.
The in-school provision is part of a wider programme. In the holidays, a van parks in areas known for anti-social behaviour. Pop-up tennis, football, volleyball, rounders, WiFi and music are available, and young people are encouraged to do something positive with their time. Holiday activity weeks and youth clubs also take place on neutral ground, where young people from various postcodes can come together without fear of local gangs. This work builds trust between the students and the provider. It also means the course leaders gain an in-depth understanding of the young people's situations and can ensure the life skills they teach are relevant and tailored to their needs.
Lucy Meade, Guidance and Support Centre Manager at the Arthur Terry School, says, 'Students really enjoyed the range of activities. The programme supports change and offers a safe space to try out new skills. The experience of team has enabled our young people to focus on leadership, resilience and responsibility.'
Alison O'Connell MBE, Youth & Community Reach Out Manager at Sport Birmingham, says, 'Focusing on behaviours at home, school and on the street reflects the key environments of young people and acknowledges that relationships in each situation require different responses. For young people at risk of exclusion, providing activities both inside and outside the learning environment can help build trust, and this at at the core of what the mentoring service provides'.
Credit: This case study was written and produced by FASTN as part of their snapshot of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) practice across England, delivered by schools, organisations, practitioners, councils, parents and communities, working in partnership.
FASTN works for a society in which all children and adults can experience safe, enduring and nurturing family environments, and where children can develop the skills needed for positive, committed relationships in adulthood. Further information can be found here: www.fastn.org | firstname.lastname@example.org | @fastn_org