Reimagining Alternative Provision

The new school year has started and across the UK teachers are starting to feed the minds of another year's cohort of the young people who are curious and eager to learn, with a vision for their future, but what about those young people who do not share the same enthusiasm for learning, those who already seem to be on a path to a future where things aren’t good? Where is the provision for the most vulnerable, those who lack positive influences or relationships, and are in danger of dropping out of education?

The life-changing SW!TCH from Dagenham to Sierra Leone

At our recent graduation event, one parent said “When he was at school, my son was never allowed to go on a trip, but SW!TCH Expeditions has taken him on an adventure of a lifetime”. On the 27th June, SW!TCH Expeditions returned from a ten-day trip to Sierra Leone which was the culmination of a two-year programme of full-time alternative provision. "This trip exceeded all our expectations" reflects Nathan Singleton, LifeLine Projects CEO. "For a start, I got to do some touristy things for the first time in ten years of visiting!". Sierra Leone was a huge opportunity for personal breakthrough in the students.

Can technology ever replace real relationship when mentoring young people?

Social media: Foe or friend to young people? A year ago the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement produced #StatusofMind - a report that examined both the negative and positive effects of social media on young people's mental health. YouTube was found to have the most positive and Instagram the most negative impact on young people's mental health. The report's recommendations focused on increased education in cyber safety and providing more help to protect the mental well-being of young people, for example by providing social media training for youth workers.

Students SW!TCH Dagenham for Sierra Leone

A group of excited 16 year olds are fundraising for an adventure of a lifetime as they switch Dagenham for Freetown. - "We're raising £12,000 to put ourselves to the test and take what we've learnt to Sierra Leone this summer. We're going to support the work of a children's home and a farm. But this isn't about volunteering. We're going to learn a lot from the young people there who have been starting and growing social enterprises in extremely difficult circumstances."

How should we measure the performance of Alternative Provision schools?

In the wake of the Brexit vote we have a government that is focused on Brussels and not much else, or so it seems. This, however, is a key time to share solutions for the AP issue. There has been a steep increase in referrals to AP in education. As I have discussed this with other sector leaders there is general agreement that current progress measures and Ofsted's Common Inspection Framework are not suitable for AP.

A hat trick of Ofsted results

At LifeLine we are committed to making a difference in the community in which we live and work. I'm delighted to be able to announce a hat trick of GOOD ratings from Ofsted. LifeLine currently operates two Little Learners Nurseries and Pre-Schools and these, along with SW!TCH Expeditions, one of our Alternative Provisions for secondary education were inspected during the latter part of 2017. We have now received confirmation that each one received a GOOD rating.

Loneliness: Helping our community to engage with solutions

According to research, loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience. Loneliness and social isolation are actually harmful to our health: lacking social connections is as much of a risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.

Change is afoot!

Hans Baird has announced his intention to step down as the Chief Executive Officer of LifeLine Projects at the end of this year. We really appreciate the contribution that Hans has made over his five year tenure, in particular the commercial expertise and skills he has brought to the LifeLine team. Hans is exchanging life in the UK for a whole new adventure in Nigeria. We wish him and his family all the very best and look forward to hearing from him from time to time as our relationship continues across the continents.

Off grid mentoring = changed lives

Unlike the Famous Five, our students - accompanied by three leaders and one mini bus packed with basic camping equipment and lashings of quick cook pasta in place of ginger beer - set off for four days in the Brecon Beacons at the end of the summer term. Camping was challenging (as you can see) and you may well be asking yourself: why bother? The simple answer is that investing time and genuine interest in a young person reaps rewards that just aren't present when looking for the quick fix, or only ever relating in a formal mentoring or education setting.

Be who you want to be!

Our society struggles with its message to young people. Schools tell kids to work hard, parents tell them to succeed and get good grades, social media tells them to behave and even look a certain way – I can’t imagine growing up with all of these different ideas flying around for how I should behave and think. These messages aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive but this mix of ideas coming from every direction must be overwhelming. Over the course of 20 years working with young people, I’ve noticed an increased pressure on them since I grew up. Some of this certainly…