Innovative Practice - The 'cool' effect

7th September 2012 at 01:00
A social enterprise picks out 'influential' pupils at risk of dropping out, engaging them in out-of-school projects

The background

Daniel Snell was so deeply shocked by the fatal stabbing of a friend's younger brother in 2003 that he ended up leaving his job in the City to do something about it. The boy was only 17, and was knifed over an argument about a game of Snake played on a mobile phone.

Snell started by setting up a social enterprise, Arrival Education, which began by providing after-school and Saturday programmes to young people at an academy. The organisation attempted to identify those pupils who were both highly influential to their peers and who were at risk of dropping out or underachieving.

Arrival Education began expanding its work to other schools, aiming to look beyond the behaviour and underachievement to the deeper beliefs and attitudes held by those target pupils. Convinced that they had huge potential, it developed a programme to help re-engage them in school, and to equip them with the ability to make a success out of their lives and inspire others.

The project

Arrival Education launched the "Success for Life" programme in 2008 to work with young people in inner-city schools. The programme consists of four years of regular meetings and projects, with pupils only able to graduate to the next year if they meet tough targets, including for attendance, test results and homework.

Pupils are selected for their influence and leadership potential. The programme has taken on about 500 young people since it was launched, and typically gets six applicants for each place.

The scheme is funded in part by commercial businesses and organisations that see it as a future recruitment tool. Schools meet the rest of the cost. So far, Success for Life has worked with pupils from at least 14 different schools.

At a recent celebration event of first-year "graduates", older students shared their thoughts on the programme with new recruits and their parents. One of the teenage boys who had just finished the fourth year of the scheme told the group how he had been predicted U grades in Year 10, and might have followed the example of his friends, some of whom had since become drug-dealers or addicts or been imprisoned.

But with support from Success for Life, he had decided to take responsibility for his life. He gave his mobile phone to his mum, focused on his studies and went on to achieve A*s in his GCSEs (the best results in his school). He is also expected to do well in his A levels.

Arrival Education has been expanding its work to other schemes, including projects designed to encourage young people to be entrepreneurs and interest them in opportunities in the emerging green sector.

Tips from the scheme

"Invest in relationships; students learn best if they trust the teacher."

"Students take on very little information if they are overwhelmed by their personal life."

Evidence that it works?

Every pupil who stays on the programme stays in education, employment or training. The programme generates an average grade improvement within 18 months of 2.5 grades. Lucy Frame, assistant principal at Walworth Academy in London, says pupils who have taken part in Success for Life "have been challenged in a way that the school setting cannot always facilitate".

"The 'outcome' of the course is real and carries great weight for the students," she adds. "It is something they want and as a result they can see that actions have direct consequences. If education was presented in the same way, more students would achieve."

THE PROJECT

Approach: Engaging influential young people at risk of underachievement in an out-of-school programme

Started: 2008

Organised by: Arrival Education, a social enterprise.

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