Helping pupils dare to dream

CAROLINE CULOT Last year around a quarter of all students of school-leaving age in Norfolk chose not to continue their education and for many that one decision could turn out to be the key to a lifetime of disappointment.


Last year around a quarter of all students of school-leaving age in Norfolk chose not to continue their education and for many that one decision could turn out to be the key to a lifetime of disappointment.

Youngsters leaving education at 16 often end up in the dole queue or doing undemanding jobs for the rest of their lives. They have children - and their children do the same as their parents did and the cycle goes on and on. And how do you break it?

There's nothing new in this and the government has over the years come up with all kinds of schemes to try to persuade youngsters to carry on their studies, even including paying them a weekly cash bonus as an incentive and yet each year the statistics speak for themselves. It's not even that young people's dreams of having a career have been shattered - for many, they probably never even dared to imagine such things were possible for them.

However, a project is under way across the county which aims to break the cycle of defeat and inspire teenagers first to have dreams and then to fulfil them.

Yesterday in Norwich, the Coaching 4 Development organisation ran another specialist course; the YES - Youth Education Success - project for those people dealing "in the front line" with 14-19-year-olds facing problems in making a transition into further education, training or work.

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The idea behind yesterday's free course was to give these workers better skills to be able to motivate young people, enabling them to "coach" them in a way a sportsperson might be encouraged to reach their goal. The emphasis is not on people advising or guiding youngsters but helping them achieve their goals themselves.

Liz Reed, YES project manager and managing director for Coaching 4 Development, based in Cromer, herself turned around her own fortune. "I grew up in Norwich and it used to be that if you came from say, Gorleston, you didn't go to college.

"Sometimes the expectations of a parent or carer of their child can be very low because it is based on their own experience but we want to turn that around. My mother was told I would never make anything but I had a couple of teachers who believed I was worth something and I ended up staying on in the sixth form, then I went to university and got a first-class degree and an MA.

"That is what we are trying to do - to help young people dare to dream."

Funded by the Learning and Skills Council in Norfolk through its European social-fund programme, the YES project promotes specialist techniques as used by the coaches of top athletes, performers and business executives but is free so it reaches people dealing with youngsters from all kinds of backgrounds.

Ms Reed said: "We want those who need the help to get it - it's fine for the chairman of ICI to be able to afford coaching but what about the young people who live on the Larkman estate?"

The project teaches people to get the best out of others with less stress and also gives ideas to raise aspirations and achievement in young people, removing inner barriers to success.

An example might be that a student says "I can't do this". The way coaching equips the tutor to help them is by encouraging them to ask the student "what is stopping you?" Action can be taken which includes reflecting on past work and positive comments made by the student's teacher as well as breaking down his work into bite-size chunks.

Coaching 4 Development has been running for four years and people started on the YES project last March, with just under 300 people going through the training.

Wendy Hazelden, a specialist teaching assistant at the City of Norwich School, dealing with young people with deafness, said: "We are the ones in the front line dealing with kids who are wonderful but need an extra bit of help."

Jenny Parsonage, chairman of the Indigo Dyslexia Service, also based in Norwich, agreed, saying: "Young people are often criticised as being disrespectful but there are a lot of great students. With problems such as dyslexia, they just get very stuck; society is inept at dealing with them."

Amanda Roles, an inclusion co-ordinator at Park High School, King's Lynn, said: "I deal with children who have all kinds of problems in school. Every day is different."

The YES project is running five more classes around the county. For more details, contact Liz Reed on 01263 510301.