Youth workers: Teenagers take part in Big Brother-style project

21st August 2009 at 01:00
Skills-enhancing project for young people takes the best of reality- show format

Original paper headline: I'm a Swansea teen, don't get me out of here

Swansea youth workers have praised the independence and maturity of teenagers taking part in a Big Brother-style social project.

More than 100 young people aged 13-19 have chosen to escape the outside world and live side by side with complete strangers for three days.

It is the second year Swansea council's youth service has held the event, which runs throughout August and aims to improve young people's teamwork, communication and leadership skills.

As in the popular TV programme, the youth centre building is monitored by closed-circuit television cameras and staff are permanently on hand to deal with any problems.

The housemates have to socialise, cook and perform tasks together - no clocks, mobile phones or computers are allowed.

A booming voice broadcast over the loudspeaker regularly asks participants to complete a task, such as running a dance class, baking a cake or undergoing a "bushtucker" trial - an additional touch derived from TV's I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here that involves eating creepy crawlies in exchange for rewards.

Youth workers believe the rules and fixed boundaries governing the project have had a positive effect on young people's personal prospects and behaviour. Five groups aged 13-15 or 16-19 are taking part this year.

Gavin Evans, area team leader for the Swansea youth service, said that younger participants took a little longer to adjust and socialise, but they all found their footing in the end.

He said every task had an educational goal. "Some activities are based on confidence-building, while others look at specific communication and decision-making skills," he added.

Youth workers aim to develop young people's practical abilities, such as cookery and social skills, with the aim of developing increased independence, personal restraint and an appreciation of different values and beliefs.

Voting for the best contributor

Gareth Jones, manager of the youth service, said the varied tasks gave different young people opportunities to lead the group.

"We have got the best things of Big Brother and not the bad ones - no voting out and no vindictive tasks," he said. "At the end of the three days, they vote for the best contributor, who is given a pound;100 reward."

Mr Jones said there had not been any bullying so far, but that staff had strict guidelines on dealing with conflicts.

"Last year, there was an incident where a boy was having difficulty adjusting," Mr Jones said.

"Rather than stepping in, youth workers spoke over the tannoy - without naming names - about looking after each other. In the end, the problem was resolved by the young people themselves."

Mr Jones said the experience had made him question his own working methods.

"It is something slightly risky and you have to plan for any event - it takes a lot of organisation and manpower," he said.

"But although you think you're doing the right thing by organising everything, sometimes young people can do things with much better standards than you might have done yourself."

Many teenagers have been recruited from local secondary schools that have dedicated youth workers.

And this year there will also be a week devoted to speaking Welsh.

Participants have commented on their new skills and improved confidence, and many have left the project vowing to help their parents more around the house with the cooking and cleaning.

Last year's participants enjoyed the experience so much that they helped to evaluate and develop the programme for this year.

  • Youth workers have now set up a blog where footage can be uploaded and for parents and friends to leave comments.


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today