Support for disadvantaged and disaffected young people in Shropshire Schools
Supporting those young people most disadvantaged in terms of social, economic or academic challenges remains a priority for many organisations. None more so than an existing partner of Windmills, Shropshire Council. How could Windmills in collaboration with Shropshire support the particular needs of this group of young people?
Shropshire Children and Young People’s Strategy sets out how the Council will ensure that ‘All children and young people will be happy, healthy, safe and reach their full potential, supported by their families, friends and the wider community. A range of initiatives, delivered by various agencies and partner organisations, to achieve this vision for Shropshire includes the Council’s Targeted Mental Health in Schools (TaMHS) project.
The focus for this team is the targeted support for those young people identified as underachieving in school due to poor attainment, poor attendance or not engaging with school in general. These students were seen as at risk of becoming part of the NEET group (not in employment, education and training). The TaMHS team were keen to add to the suite of support they offer by developing a programme of support that would help engage young people in a motivating, active and different way and was capable of being offered in a range of settings, 1:1, small group, class room and externally based was needed.
Having benefited herself from becoming one of the Change Champions with Shropshire Council as part of their change and transformation programme – Shropshire Update, Helen Bayley, TaMHS Project Manager in Shropshire Council’s Family Care and Well Being team, quickly recognised how the Windmills principles and approach could also be helpful for the families and young people she was working with.
From discussions with the team at Windmills, Helen was introduced to STAR the Windmills exciting and innovative programme for young people.
The ultimate objective of STAR in this instance was to help those young people in danger of becoming NEET to realise their potential, and raise their confidence and motivation in so doing by becoming more active learners. It was hoped that the STAR programme would help these students to feel more positive about themselves and encourage them to think about what they might need to do to achieve their goals for the future.
Keen to support this exciting initiative, Windmills agreed that the TaMHS project could pilot the STAR programme in 5 Shropshire schools under the Council’s existing license agreement and a STAR champions training programme was arranged.
Windmills delivered a STAR Champions capacity building programme (find out more about Windmills capacity building programmes here) which enabled twelve Shropshire Council staff members to familiarise themselves with the content and delivery of STAR. In line with the Council’s intention to “join up” more closely the contribution of respective agencies on the ground, the Champions group included individuals providing services such as Information, Advice and Guidance, Education Welfare staff and individuals from the Targeted Youth Support team, along with the TaMHS project manager and a number of teaching and support staff from schools.
The training particularly focused on the goals and actions needed for implementation of the activities into the pilot schools along with the preparation required for delivery of the different STAR activities. The Champions looked at ways to provide appropriate contexts for the target groups they were supporting by developing creative ideas for ‘bringing it alive’ and identifying relevant curriculum links. The Champions group agreed that the pilots would target small groups of young people identified by the school as matching the focus of the project i.e. those in need of extra support/disengaging themselves from school teaching and in need of motivation and inspiration.
Champions from the group then went on to pilot the STAR programme in 5 different secondary schools with young people from Y8-Y12. In all of the pilot programmes group size was kept small – 8 students being the maximum number in any cohort although some one to one work was completed also.
The Champions’ training was a very positive experience for the participants. People enjoyed the programme and left feeling very enthusiastic about getting started on their pilot programmes. Champions were looking forward to ‘making a difference to young people’, and ‘taking the message of choice out to the young people we work with.’ They felt the STAR materials were ‘very enlightening’, ‘energising and motivating’ and one participant commented that the training approach ‘role modelled the STAR Champion role superbly.’
The Champions were also very enthusiastic about the quality and flexibility of the STAR resources and activities, welcoming an approach that would encourage pupils to identify their skills and aspirations. Describing the STAR programme one Champion described it as a
‘versatile tool to help motivate young people’ while another commented ‘great resource/tools that will benefit so many different pupils.’
As the Champions then delivered STAR in the pilots they were delighted that the outcomes for the students were ‘really good’, remarking that through the STAR activities they had ‘created some excellent work and they all learned something new about themselves and their peers’. Similarly in another school the Champions noted the knock on effect for other PHSE sessions confident that the students ‘wouldn’t have been able to complete the CV or promote themselves the way they did if they had not done STAR.’
More specifically the STAR skills cards activity and the Golden Ticket exercise were identified as having a real impact. According to one Champion the students particularly liked the completing the skills cards activity and ‘were able to identify strengths and skills they may not otherwise have thought of.’ Another commented, ‘the activity held their interest and it got their imaginations working really well and what came out of it was quite revealing. We found out far more from doing this activity than we would have if we’d have asked them face to face. Some of them were very shy and would not have verbally told us what they shared with us via this activity.’
Champions identified an impact for individual students and noticed how the activities encouraged peer learning and support in the group. When commenting on working with the skills cards activity one Champion said ‘it was lovely to see one girl lean over another’s shoulder and add to her strengths list.’ Another champion had worked one to one with one girl and ‘noticed small changes with this student in and around school in general even after the first session which was comforting to see.’
One Champion from the TaMHS team reflected that the group of young people she had been working with over a 6 week period had, ‘definitely got lots out of it.’ For one young year 9 pupil who had been ‘a bit apathetic at the start but the STAR experience, and the Treasures activity in particular, proved especially powerful. In deciding on his preferred ‘tribe’ he began to open up and, although reticent at first, shared his love of cooking. Initially a little embarrassed he was soon encouraged to feel proud of his skill and be confident in choosing to take GCSE in Food Technology’
Click here to talk to us about how you can explore utilising STAR within your organisation