Over 300 University of East London students train to help at-risk youth
Save lives and effect change with social coaching, urges UEL chair Geoff Thompson
More than 300 students from the University of East London (UEL) have taken part in a programme aimed at saving the lives of young people on the Capital’s streets. It is part of the Social Coach Leadership Programme pioneered by the UN accredited charity, The Youth Charter. This is the biggest social coach programme in the country, and organisers are confident it will keep at-risk young people from straying into a life of crime by involving them in activities such as sport, media, culture and the arts.
Welcoming the students, the chair of UEL’s Board of Governors, Geoff Thompson, said it was a historic moment and they would help to save lives on the streets.
“Six people’s lives were lost in the past few days,” he said. “There have been 135 people killed in London in 2018, of which 40 per cent were 15-25 year olds. This year there have already been 11 deaths. Every life is priceless and I believe that we can effect change. This unique social coach training we are offering through this partnership between UEL and The Youth Charter will enable trained mentors, through pioneering new approaches, to help to tackle the increasingly serious problem of anti-social behaviour among socially excluded youth.”
The Social Coach Leadership Programme (SCLP) is a structured development programme, training existing youth professionals and role model volunteers with the language, tools and engagement strategies to deliver sports, arts and socially based activities for young people aged between 10 and 19.
Mr Thompson set up the charity in Manchester 26 years ago following the shooting of 14-year-old Benji Stanley in Moss Side. The Youth Charter’s key messages are that sport and the arts can be used to divert disaffected youth from crime, by building young people's self-confidence and skills, a message being taken on board by the government.
“The Youth Charter tackles educational non-attainment, health inequality, anti-social behaviour and the negative effects of crime, drugs, gang related activity and racism by applying the ethics of sporting and artistic excellence,” Mr Thompson added.
“This extraordinary workshop heralds a new era with UEL and its partnership with Youth Charter that will genuinely counter the crisis on our streets. Here we are encouraging community development through sport, and we know sport, culture, arts and digital activity saves lives. As well as helping youngsters to keep off the streets by engaging them in sport and other activities, our new ‘float like a butterfly Social Coach Leadership Programme’ enriches, empowers and enables young people.
“This is a real example of what staff, students and the community can achieve in the way of the art of the possible. You can’t stop drugs and you can’t stop experimentation,” Mr Thompson told students. “But you can empower people through sport. Sport and the arts are a vaccine, an antidote to violence and drugs.”
Mr Thompson said he was a key example of social coaching. Through his own experience of excelling in sport as a five-time world karate champion, he said he was able to help those like him who had natural talent but needed positive role models to realise their potential. The workshops heard how some of the students had lost friends through violence on the streets.
Student Elliott Webb said, “It was seeing violence and drugs on the streets and friends being killed that made me want to be a social coach and to come on this coaching day. I want to be able to spin it on its head and turn things round so that instead of knives and violence, we can turn things into a positive.
“I feel there is a need to change things by working in the community in areas where crime and anti-social behaviour is rife, so that I can make a change for the better. I have been surrounded by people living in a gang culture, and I have messed up in the past, but have turned things round, so now I want to take a positive approach through this social coaching and help others in the community.”
Another UEL student, Joan Eitzenberger, agreed that young people needed more positive influences. She wanted to become a social coach to encourage and motivate others. “I believe that motivation and life purpose is very important. I grew up in different cultural backgrounds and I think I can help others through my own experiences. Social coaches are very important so we can emphasise to young people the need for good values and positive influences through sport and other activities.”
“The first social coaches have now been recruited and we will see them volunteering two hours a week. This will enable young people to have somewhere to go, something to do and someone to show them how to develop their mental, physical and emotional life resilience. With these trained coaches, we are aiming to have holiday camps and summer camps to provide sporting and other activities for young people.”
“The day’s coaching included workshops for all 300 students, most of whom were trainee teachers at UEL, wo have come from the community and who will go on to help those in their community,” said acting dean of Professional Services, Dr Carrie Weston.
They also heard a motivational talk from the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, David Grevemberg, who gave a personal reflection of working with disaffected young people globally.
More students will take part in another Social Coach Leadership Programme workshop at the University in May.