Brixton school exclusions: project update

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We recently reached another small but encouraging milestone at CHIPS – half-way point in the first year of our latest project tackling school exclusions in Lambeth!

Launched with the support of the Walcot Foundation in September 2019, we expect to work with up to 150 pupils at risk of exclusion over our three-year Voices for Change project.

We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made so far. Rishan Walker, our CHIPS Youth Worker, has been a facilitator at nearly every group mentoring session since the programme started and says: “Six months in, I can already see how the work we’re doing is helping them to become better students – and more importantly better people!”

Tackling hot issues

One of the key aims of the project is to engage young people by drawing out their anger and frustration, and helping them to channel it into the issues they care about and make change happen.

Two CHIPS youth workers facilitate regular group mentoring sessions with them at school, and also organise activities with them outside the area, to help them see the bigger picture and encourage them to explore new ways of problem-solving.

Hot issues which have emerged so far, where we are now helping the students to explore ways of taking action, range from school behaviour management policy to police-community relations and climate change.

Please come again!

Rishan says one highlight of her work so far was when one of the groups, who started the project with great scepticism, started to ask “Can you guys come again on Thursday?” even though their sessions are only held on Tuesdays!

Darnell, aged 14, was one of the most disruptive students at the beginning of the school year, which was displayed through aggressive talk and horseplay. Since the first session, his behaviour has improved week by week, and he has since begun to engage actively in the group discussion.

Happy teachers

Teachers seem pleased with progress too – if not a little bemused that their students are suddenly keen to come to school! One senior teacher says “The students really like it and are always asking if sessions are happening today” while the pastoral manager at another school says that the students always look forward to their sessions.

The work is one strand of the CHIPS Voices for Change project, which brings together, and builds on, two of our most successful areas of work in Brixton to date – community organising and partnership with schools.

Paul Maxwell-Rose, Co-Director of Programmes, oversees the project from the CHIPS base in Brixton. “Through community organising, we help young people and families on the estates drive change in their communities, while our partnership with schools means we can help those at risk of exclusion to turn their lives around”, he says. “By delivering these together, I believe we can have a real impact as we work to build peace in Brixton.”