If you haven’t seen BBC 3’s “Excluded – kicked out of school” (Tuesday nights 9pm) may we recommend it as a window into some of the issues our PEAK project addresses.
This new documentary series follows life in west London’s “Alternative Provision” Bridge Academy – an alternative to mainstream education for students who have been excluded from school.
Newport is not west London but there is a striking similarity with some of the children walking through the PEAK project doors.
Take attendance, for example. As a major outcome of both the PEAK project and the west London academy in the documentary, one teacher told the BBC that truancy was the “most profound behaviour that we have to deal with.” Simply not turning up, as another teacher in the programme explained, is often down to the fact that “they don’t want to come to school as the experience they have had has been negative enough to keep them out.”
Another similarity is the range of experiences many of these children have gone through outside school. In the BBC documentary some have gone through major family breakdowns or tragedy while others have fallen so far behind they have almost lost all interest in learning. The result is often a lack of confidence that frequently disguises itself as aggression. As with PEAK, building up confidence sometimes sees an initial “dip” in acceptable behaviour before the longer term improvements – something PEAK experiences on a regular basis.
The bottom line of what both PEAK and the academy in the documentary are trying to do was put rather neatly towards the end of episode one:
“You either help the kids and they become normal contributing members of society and the community as a whole; or, if you want to punish a kid … go for it. And then they punish their kids, and their kids punish other peoples kids, and you get generations of kids who just go around being abusive.”
PEAK isn’t aiming to create the next generation of rocket scientists – the aim is to help these students become well rounded and contributing members of society. To try and break the all too familiar cyclical nature of developing antisocial behaviour and a loss of interest in learning that can pass from generation to generation.
If you know somebody who may benefit from an alternative to mainstream education, even if just for a few weeks or days at a time, contact Ian Pearce at the PEAK Project.