Small steps to a better life

My grandfather was out of work during the General Strike, but a university degree helped him out of those hard times. It took him from the pits and the tin-plating to a vicarage.

Yes, dad was passionate about education and he was right. The truth is that education can still get you out. So why aren't our youngsters more enthusiastic? Why are they dropping out? Why are so many of the Valley kids simply not interested in trying? And what are we doing about it?

Wales has appointed an Australian, Steve Marshall, as director of the department for education, lifelong learning and skills. Has Australia, especially in the south where Mr Marshall hails from, been doing anything exciting?

Its Step to the Future Forum seems an interesting project. A total of 500 young people signed up and were allowed to choose their own inspirational speakers. The concept spread across Australia. The youngsters invite basketball players and singers to address them - people in the glamorous jobs most of us only dream of. But they also invited motivational speakers such as Deborah Storer and Shelley Sykes.

Ms Sykes is known as the "happiness guru" for her "honour and respect you"

philosophy. "You will have no regrets that way and feel more empowered,"

she says.

Ms Storer claims you should shatter limiting beliefs that prevent you from moving on in your life.

So these kids are looking for methods to empower themselves. They want to do well. They want coaching support.

I've been to The Youth Coaching Academy in London's East End and met some of the youngsters it reaches. They are dynamic and positive - full of potential. They have identified what they want in life - a happy family of their own, their own house, no debts and holidays abroad. They understand that to reach their goals they have to take small steps in the right direction and that education helps them.

I have always used coaching techniques with my pupils, but there wasn't always the time to coach some of the children who most needed help.

These were not necessarily the naughty ones, but the quiet, disaffected ones who hated school. Although I would have loved to have given each child in my class the time and attention to maximise their potential, it would not have been a realistic option in the confines of the classroom.

I welcome any initiative that will help raise our youngsters' self-esteem, enabling them to use education well. I welcome the introduction of learning coaches as part of the 14 to 19 Learning Pathways initiative and the consortium based at the University of Glamorgan that is providing it.

Helen Yewlett is a former ICT teacher

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