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When independence is the only answer

I'm Offski! The title of a Rab C Nesbitt video or novel by a Russian defector? Neither. It is, in fact, a stimulating and practical guide on housing and leaving home, supported and recommended by the Higher Still Development Unit and the Scottish Office.

The pack has been written to provide information for young people on finding, setting up and maintaining a home. It also aims to equip them with practical skills associated with independent living. Its target audience is 14 to 16-year-olds as part of a school's personal and social education programme. Shelter's Ready to Go? (1994) pack contains similar activities, many of which could be used to supplement I'm Offski!.

A series of six lessons is suggested which can be used by teaching staff alone or in conjunction with an outside agency - in our case, members of the ever-helpful Cyrenians' Cygnet project team in Aberdeen. The lessons can be used in any order, and offer opportunities for cross-curricular input. The final section is designed to be used as a direct teaching aspect of Independent Living in the personal awareness and development unit of Higher Still PSE.

Each lesson covers two activities but the material is flexible enough for teachers to choose one or both and decide on the depth they go into, depending on the age group and needs of their pupils.

The accompanying video (a 15-minute drama about three young people and the decisions they are faced with about where to live) is enjoyed by pupils and provides realism, motivation and stimulus for discussion relating to the first three lessons.

The pack begins with a "teacher's to do" list summarising how to prepare for using the resources, and pages providing useful contact addresses. Numbers of housing education partners, advice providers and emergency help for young homeless people are also given.

Each lesson then clearly details its broad aims, lists the resources you will need (including televisionvideo, how many sheets, pens etc for a class of 30!) and gives the specific objectives for each activity. Everything has been thought of and it could not be simpler to organise. Activities are varied and relevant.

The first three lessons may be better suited to younger pupils (possibly S3) to raise awareness of accommodation issues and lessons four to six more relevant to older students, as they raise the practicalities of independent living.

This pack is well thought out and easy for teachers to organise, as well as relevant and practical for youngsters, encouraging them to reflect on what being homeless can mean and equipping them with the necessary skills for moving out. It's also good value, an important consideration for an Aberdonian like me.

I'M OFFSKI! Written and produced by HEID (Housing, Education, Information Development) project team. Photocopiable pack with video, Pounds 20Published by Scottish Council for Single Homeless


Stay or go reasons for leaving home, associated advantages and disadvantages and the importance of planning before leaving; Getting a place accommodation options and how to find a place; Who can help? - when and how to get advice, information and support; Practical living skills how to cope financially and otherwise; Rights and responsibilities how others view young people and barriers to leaving home; House or home? what having a home means, exploring the concept of being homeless and the difference between a house and a home.

Doreen Gray is principal teacher of guidanace at Kincorth Academy, Aberdeen

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