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."

Online donation platforms for charities, revisited

Back when we redesigned our website in 2016, we explored options for having a way for the public to donate to us online. There’s been a few changes since then, so we’ve updated our previous research, and expanded it to include a few more options! First, a little background: we’re a locally-focused charity, and while we don’t rely on donations to fulfill our vision, we DO use targeted fundraising campaigns from time to time. When researching, we originally focused on the three most popular options – JustGiving, Virgin Money Giving and BT’s MyDonate – but now we’ll also take a…

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.

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.

Talk about it

A few months ago I wrote and performed a poem called ‘Talk About It’ for a BBC radio event on mental health. When I was originally approached to write a poem, I was asked to write about how mental health affects young people. Just the thought of writing and performing a poem on such a serious and sensitive matter made me feel anxious. The feelings reminded me that I would not have been able to perform in front of people and on live radio as little as 5 years ago, due to my anxiety. So I decided to write about…

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…

Why is alternative education so crucial?

Schools are responding to population growth, but how can we ensure that every pupil receives the best quality of education? We are in the middle of a policy void. An alarming place to be, given that we are talking about something so vital. The most recently set direction of travel was in March 2016 when the then Secretary of State for Education released a white paper entitled 'Educational Excellence Everywhere'. The introduction says 'there still remain too many pockets of educational under-performance – areas where too many young people miss out on the chance to benefit from the best possible education. This is deeply unfair.'

Get disengaged students to love learning again: here’s how

For some young people the big school setting simply doesn't work. It's too overwhelming. Too brutal you might say. Some young people just need a smaller class. A smaller school. Expensive? Yes. Undeniably. But we’re sharing our discoveries with you because they show that it’s possible to dramatically change the future trajectory for disengaged students to get them on course to progress into further education at 16+ rather than being added to the NEET numbers.