Swindon Youth Empowerment Project (SYEP) is currently working in six schools in urban disadvantaged areas in Swindon. The project encourages young people with disaffected and challenging behaviour to reflect on their own behaviour, relationships and potential. The particular innovation of SYEP includes guided personal reflection using visualisation, words and music in an ambient environment without distractions (called “the Tranquillity Zone”), followed by focused activities to stimulate personal discovery (called “the Discovery Zone”). The current phase is to train Learning Mentors in schools in the Excellence in Cities initiative in Swindon to run sessions for pupils at risk in their schools, and assess the impact of these programmes. \ud \ud The project team calls these “dispirited pupils” as they have never learnt to reflect on their self-worth and potential. The main education staff involved are two trainers from the Swindon Youth Empowerment Project (SYEP), who are working in partnership with the Excellence in Cities initiative (EiC) to train 9 Learning Mentors. These Learning Mentors organizationally are part of the EiC, and are employed to guide and support challenging pupils (mainly from secondary schools), so that these pupils become more engaged and motivated with their learning and improve their behaviour. The Swindon Youth Empowerment Project team has trained the Learning Mentors in the Tranquillity Zone and Discovery Zone programmes, which are designed to stimulate pupils in a non-authoritarian way to reflect on their attitudes, reactions, relationships and actions, to consider the consequences of these, and devise alternative life strategies. This is described as reflection on and development of their “higher nature” in ways designed to have a positive effect on relationships and self-esteem. The Tranquillity Zone is guided with text and music in an ambient environment and is linked with the Discovery Zone, which inspires young people to move to their higher nature through personal discovery and activities to develop and articulate their understanding and thinking. The project seeks to influence behaviour by addressing the root causes of personal insecurities and open up new possibilities. Within the 18 project elements of personal, moral, social and emotional learning, the organization is non-authoritarian and aims to illuminate staff, pupils and parents with a positive outlook, which helps them to rise above their problems.\ud \ud The project is developing and expanding, and has involved me as researcher as a dynamic part of that developmental process. Feedback from the Excellence in Cities government initiative has been enthusiastic, recognizing it as an innovative new strategy to refocus and re-energize disaffected young people both in primary and secondary schools. The Learning Mentors who operate the project in schools regard it as most effective and have enthusiastic views on their training. Pupils who have been through the project express strong views that it is been personally effective to them and even “turned them round” from failure to success.\ud \ud All concerned have the highest opinion of the effectiveness of this project in terms of increasing the personal confidence of disaffected young people and giving them a sense of direction, agency and aspiration. The relationship between the project team and these young people is crucial to its success, and the process of building capacity through training is beginning. As the project is not funded by mainstream educational funding, it is totally reliant for its survival on marginal funding bids which are currently restricting expansion. For this it needs to follow up the pupils who have benefited from the programme, and their parents – and to create long term evaluation procedures
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