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.
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.
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.'
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.
Putting it bluntly, gaining the trust and respect of a young person who seems disinterested in anything other than making trouble is tough. Really tough. A mentor needs to have a certain resilience and determination to stick with it, often working through weeks of flak, or (worse) the rejection of silence, all designed to test whether they really care, before there's light at the end of the tunnel.
A mentor deployed from the corporate world, often, is simply not equipped to deal with these demands. Mentors from big city firms have limited time but are GREAT at mentoring students who are high flyers in the making: already achieving and who, with a little nudge will raise their gaze and reach even higher. These students will thrive on the connection with the corporate sector; be driven to study harder, go to university or even seek work experience in their own time in the city.
A few weeks ago Tony, along with his seven other classmates at SW!TCH Expeditions, was causing trouble at school. He could not relate to other students, would often blow up in class and beat up younger students if he didn’t like the way they looked at him. When he was agitated he became a health and safety risk - unable to cope with authority and a law unto himself. His Headteacher was giving him one last chance before the threat of a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) became reality. Tony was selected as one of the candidates on SW!TCH Expeditions, a programme designed to turn students from persistent trouble-makers into consistent successes.
There's no quick fix for NEET young people. A sustained approach, with commitment and long-term funding is what inspires lasting change and creates game-changers like Robyn and Prince
Robyn was coming up to her GCSE year, but didn't really care about school work. Her mentor noticed that her attitude to school was quite negative although she had plenty of time for doing things other than homework!
Her mentor expressed her concern and in one of those conversations Robyn was struck by the fact that her mentor seemed to have a strong vision for what she could accomplish through her school work.
"My Dad left when I was three and I don't know where he is...". "My Mum and step Dad are getting divorced. I don't feel like I belong anywhere...". "I know that hanging around with him doesn't help me, but he's my mate, what can I do?" There are some stories that we hear time and time again across the inner-city schools we mentor in. Stories from young people who use weed, or who self-harm, or are violent as a matter of course. Simply because they don't know how to deal with what life throws at them.
Schools of course aren't there to deal with these issues. They're there to educate. But it's difficult, sometimes impossible to educate because the underlying issues manifest in poor attendance, behaviour or attainment.
We’re really pleased to announce that the LifeLine Institute has recently achieved independent school status! Whereas young people were previously referred to LifeLine exclusively by the Local Authority, it is now also possible for schools that don’t believe mainstream education is benefitting a pupil to refer them to LifeLine. This has broadened the service that LifeLine can provide to schools.