Thursday 24th May 2018 – a day we had been looking forward to.
A chance to visit Balaam Wood School in Frankley to help celebrate an innovative new partnership scheme for local young people and watch a group of Year 8 lads receive awards to recognise their completion of the programme: Inspired Choices.
Aimed at selected 11-16 year olds, ‘Inspired Choices’ is a ten week programme which offers young people extraordinary experiences to inspire them to make better choices, broaden their opportunities, improve their self-confidence, connect with their communities and improve behaviour and school attendance.
The programme pilot – funded by south Birmingham’s Community Safety Partnership – was launched in February, led by local West Midlands Police officers, along with partners including West Midlands Fire Service, the National Trust, Northfield Ecocentre and others.
12 boys from Balaam Wood were lucky to have been selected for the pilot Inspired Choices programme.
Some of the activities the boys took part in included:
- Outdoor activities with the National Trust, including bush-craft and survival skills
- Time with West Midlands Fire Service at Northfield fire station, working on problem solving exercises and training drills
- First aid with Street Doctors
- Health and fitness and cookery at Northfield Ecocentre
- Personal, road, rail and fire safety at Safeside at Eastside
PCSO Andy Ryan said: “Levels of child poverty in south Birmingham are among the highest in the country, so it’s understandable that young people will be presented with opportunities to make negative life choices or be dragged into anti-social behaviour or crime.
“West Midlands Police’s focus is now very much on partnership work to reduce harm through prevention and intervention at the earliest opportunity. That means working better with partners and communities to protect young people from harm, build trust and intervene early to prevent future offending.
“It’s all about getting young people to appreciate and realise their potential…and the results so far have been really encouraging.”
Since completing Inspired Choices these pupils have demonstrated better school attendance and improvements in behaviour, both in and out of school. The boys have improved confidence and feel a pride in their achievement, gaining a more positive outlook on their futures.
Feedback from the participants, their parents and carers, school staff and partners has been overwhelmingly positive.
Damien McGarvey, headteacher at Balaam Wood School, praised the programme and said that the lads had all enjoyed – and been challenged by – their experiences.
He said: “Importantly, they’ve been able to engage with these agencies that otherwise they may have been ‘suspicious’ about or not really understood the contribution they make to society.
“They have been learning about and developing a responsibility for themselves as young people and citizens in our community. And I have no doubt that, as a result, some of them will go on to become one of those who serve and protect us in public services.
“On behalf of Balaam Wood…thank you to all who made this happen.”
Northfield fire station commander Lee Baker is Co-Chair of Birmingham Community Safety Partnership that sees the police, fire, probation service, local authority, health providers, charities and community leaders work together to support vulnerable children and target offenders.
He said: “It has been a pleasure to be involved from the concept of Inspired Choices. Through the South Community Safety Partnership (CSP) we recognised the need to engage youth groups early and offer them a different choice.
“The CSP approved funding to set up and deliver the program focused on positive outcomes for the young people of South Birmingham including reducing demand for services. I would like to thank the teams who have delivered this programme through collaboration and in partnership.”
Inspired Choices will now be delivered to more local secondary schools over the next year, after PCSO Andy Ryan secured £3,500 funding from housing firm Willmott Dixon.
Inspector Lee Trinder, who championed the scheme, said that comments made by the young people in particular would be taken on board when shaping future programmes.
Turves Green Girls School are the next to get involved, with others set to benefit over the coming year.