Reaching out to help London’s schoolchildren
London is full of sound. More to the point – London is full of noise. Traffic is almost constant, planes crisscross the skies, work always seems to be going on somewhere – hammering on a building site, a tree surgeon lopping untidy branches with a chainsaw. Little wonder that at as soon as the sun appears we love to make a break for the local park, to find a little oasis. Yet there’s one sound that cuts through the London din with its own unique melody – the sound of schoolchildren at play. Next time you have the chance to walk past a local school at playtime just close your eyes for a moment and listen; I challenge you to produce a more happy sound.
And yet the happy chorus of a schoolyard is also deceptive. Whilst the laughter and giggles rise to the fore, somewhere in that schoolyard there will be children who are struggling to integrate and desperate for end of the day to arrive. Children like Ryan
TLG (transforming lives for good) has been reaching out to help London’s schoolchildren, and their parents, for almost 10 years. When our work in the capital began the aim was to provide an alternative education centre for excluded and at-risk secondary school pupils. These are the sort of young people that HM Chief Inspector of Education Sir Michael Wishaw had in mind when he said in a recent speech that “Educational underperformance leads directly to social alienation”. Given that community and inclusion are at the heart of the mission of the church it’s hard to think of a phrase that is more antithetical to Christ’s Kingdom vision than ‘social alienation’.
In order to ensure that the alienated are welcomed and that the excluded are included TLG began working in partnership with St. Paul’s Hammersmith. The TLG West London Centre was launched and it continues to do an excellent job with teenagers at a crisis point in their education. They are provided with a tailored curriculum in a small-scale environment that has high staff to pupil ratios. Another TLG education centre is due to open soon south of the river, in Lewisham.
However, in recent years, our leadership team have been looking ‘upstream’ at the factors that lie behind children and young people’s educational disengagement. Working with a team of educational experts the Key Stage 2 phase (7-11 years old) was identified as a time when Early Intervention can be offered with the potential to deal with behavioural issues before they become full-blown. A package of Early Intervention training and resources was developed and is now available to local churches, through which volunteers can be equipped to coach a child in-school for an hour a week, with remarkable results. Over a dozen churches around London are now running TLG Early Intervention Schemes in their local primary schools, and becoming deeply involved in helping the school to thrive as a result.
The final piece of the jigsaw comes with recognising that behind every struggling child there is often a struggling parent. The big question here is always - how to reach out to these parents without them feeling ‘got-at’? TLG offers a solution in the form of a short, down-to-earth video course that local churches can run in their own building or on the school campus. Its premise is that all parents of school-aged kids need help sometimes, so why not get together to help one another through the ups and downs? The course is known as School Kit and you can watch a short preview of it by clicking here.
Readers can find out more about TLG and its programmes online at www.tlg.org.uk- where they can also watch more inspiring short stories such as Ryan’s.