Back in the fold

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
An active-learning programme is helping pupils at risk of exclusion, writes Phil Revell.

It's the kind of project that attracts all the wrong headlines. On a school day, while other Year 11s are at their desks, a small group of teenagers are loading snowboards into a minibus. They are part of an active-learning programme run by Surrey's community and placement support team (CAPS). It also organises go-karting, bowling, indoor rock climbing and other activities for children at risk.

The activities are allied to a reintegration programme that aims to tempt young people back into school or college. The carrot is a pound;30-a-week allowance, plus that Wednesday morning session on the ski-slope. Surrey has 12 places available for children with long-term problems at home or at school.

But is it really worth the not inconsiderable expense? Certainly, Laura, a pupil taking part in the scheme, thinks so.

"I was having problems at home, losing my temper a lot and I wasn't going to school," she says. "I should be in Year 11, but it's difficult. Towards the end of Year 10, I wasn't going to school at all. I just didn't like it. I stopped going.

"Instead, I'd go around with some mates. I was drinking a lot. And that would cause problems at home. The smallest thing would blow up. I saw the state I was getting into and I knew how it was affecting my family, but I didn't think too much about it."

At that stage, social services referred Laura to the CAPS team who sent a caseworker along to see her. "I came downstairs and they said 'Tracey is here to talk to you.' I didn't know she was coming. My parents didn't tell me - 'cos I wouldn't have been there if they had.

"It was a shock, I didn't want to talk to anyone, but it did help.

"I started going once a week to the centre. That helped me a lot. It took my mind off things. I never have been able to look too far into the future, but I was scared that I was going to go downhill and end up like my mum - that was what scared me most.

"I get paid pound;30 a week to stay on the course. I've started working on my GCSEs and I've been going on the motor bikes course. I enjoy doing that, and the leader is sorting things out for me so that I can learn about the mechanics of the bikes. I'd like work experience - perhaps with children.

"I'm doing different things now - I've stopped drinking and I'm with a different group of people.

"Things are better at home as well. I haven't had a big argument for ages.

"Before I was sitting around all day getting drunk - and that's what I'd still be doing if it wasn't for the CAPS team."

Laura is not her real name.

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