Challenging times for young people

3rd August 2021

Isolating from school has had a catastrophic impact on many young people and their families. Not only did lockdown disturb their schooling it also effected their social confidence and self-esteem.

School children in Barrow received support to prevent the pandemic affecting their life chances, thanks to the Strong Foundations, Successful Futures project.

“The aim is to make sure they feel safe and supported, and that they have a love of learning,” says Sarah Cubiss, Delivery Manager for The Brathay Trust, the charity running the scheme after it received £10,000 from the Cumberland Building Society Community Fund.

The project works with eleven-year-olds at Walney Secondary School. Pupils have been getting special assemblies and wellbeing sessions designed to ease fears over the sudden move from primary into secondary school after months out of formal education.

Siblings, Sophie* and Tyler*, found the transition to secondary school very difficult. Their wellbeing was further exacerbated by a family breakdown and the school noticed they were struggling to engage with education.

Alongside 200 other young people, the project was able to help the siblings by offering emotional support and tools to help them to navigate isolation and social anxiety. Sophie and Tyler attended the wellbeing groups, where they explored different ways to manage emotions, to understand how to look after their own wellbeing and it provided a safe space to talk.

Initially, there was support and homework sessions for the pupils in school. The project then expanded into the community with games, Take and Make food activity sessions, and sports activities for young people with 29 families taking part.

The school noticed a significant difference in the siblings after their participation in the project and they were selected to take part in an activity day at Brathay Hall in Ambleside as a celebration and reward for overcoming their personal challenges.

Sophie, who is now more confident, said: “When times get hard, I’m going to talk to myself and say, ‘just keep going’. It is okay to be on your own to calm down, stay brave and know that there’s help somewhere. Talk through things when you are stuck.”

Sarah, a former primary school teacher in Barrow for more than 20 years, continues: said “If pupils become disaffected with school in the early weeks of transitioning, the knock-on effects for their whole secondary education are potentially huge.

“The wellbeing workshops reached 135 pupils. 25 children received targeted support over a five-week period. We also delivered four workshops for 13 young people with special educational needs to help them manage their emotions and response to returning to school after the lockdown Alongside this, we also provided homework clubs and home learning resources. Going forward, we aim to support schools in developing peer leaders within the ‘new’ year 7 to offer continued peer support once normal school life resumes.”

*names changed