Youths dig deep to help create garden

Buckling down at school - and enjoying it - was probably the last thing they expected to do.These teenagers, who are not in mainstream education, yesterday got down to some hard graft at a Norwich school in a bid to create a new garden for its pupils and a bit of positive thinking for themselves.

Buckling down at school - and enjoying it - was probably the last thing they expected to do.

These teenagers, who are not in mainstream education, yesterday got down to some hard graft at a Norwich school in a bid to create a new garden for its pupils and a bit of positive thinking for themselves.

The sleeves were rolled up and the shovels and forks plunged into the playing field at Cavell First School for the first scheme of its kind in Norfolk to involve youngsters who have either been excluded or refused from school for a variety of complex and sensitive reasons.

Project co-ordinator Conrad LaPointe said he hoped the trial run of Youth Force at Lakenham and similar regeneration projects in Bowthorpe and Hethersett would instil some self belief in the teenagers and the confidence of Norfolk County Council, which is yet to fund the scheme.

“This is a new, nothing like this has happened before,” said Mr LaPointe, who works for children's services at County Hall.

“They have all been excluded or refused from school, so reality for a lot of them is that they will not get GCSEs.

Most Read

“What we want to try to give them is some extra benefits - this type of responsibility is something they may never have been given before.

“They have to turn up on time and understand that they're in an environment where they need to keep to certain rules, but one which may suit them more than school.

“You can see the changes pretty quickly.”

Mr LaPointe believes Youth Force will really engage teenagers who often have the natural instinct to rebel and to live up to a certain image. Some of those involved are also undertaking a city and guilds course in woodwork and construction.

“When they leave us they will have the skills to start looking for a job because they will be building skills around communities, developing a worth ethic and working as a team.

“We chose schools because many don't have the finances to do these things themselves, and the teenagers can relate well to young people because most of them have younger brothers and sisters.

“They don't feel threatened here and it can really bring out the best of them, they can feel wanted” added Mr LaPointe, as one strapping teenager downed tools to chat with a row of children who had come to watch.

For Daniel Leggett, 16, Youth Force is a great chance to shed a stereotype.

“It looks like it's going to be really hard work, but I hope we'll be able to prove a lot of people wrong,” he said.

“They'll see we're not adolescent delinquents.”

Youth Force, which hopes to transform part of the playing field in to a new sensory and nature garden by March, received a total of £17,000 from Acorn Grants and the Local Network Fund.