Teenager bounces back from the brink

Jon Slater

Four years ago, Chris Jeeves was a teacher's nightmare. He had been expelled from Hove Park school in Brighton after hitting a teacher and his temporary exclusion from Falmer school looked like being made permanent.

Now the 15-year-old, who has grown up on Brighton's tough Moulscombe estate, is expecting six good grades when he sits his GCSEs next summer and is hoping to go to college and then university. He even spends time helping an old lady with her garden.

This dramatic turnaround is the result of a local project which pairs young people from single-parent, low-income backgrounds with adults willing to offer support, broaden their horizons and give up time to take them out of their regular environment.

The scheme is run by Fun in Action, a Brighton-based voluntary organisation, which is often called in by social services to help keep children out of care.

When Chris met Ralph Crane, a 52-year-old solicitor with two grown-up children, about four years ago, the teenager had poor social skills and even had difficulty using a knife and fork.

Mr Crane admits it was difficult to strike up a relationship. But it developed during weekly bowling sessions, trips to the cinema or the restaurant run by Mr Crane's son.

"The cynical would say this is about bringing middle-class values to the working classes but it is about more than that - it is about broadening horizons," he said.

Chris, who is still at Falmer school, said: "I used to swear at teachers and I bunked off a lot, but I have got a lot better since I met Ralph. You don't want to break the bond with your befriender because you don't want to upset them."

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Jon Slater

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