Innovative youth charity, Futureversity, is calling on MPs and policy makers to do more to support children in deprived areas whose mental, physical and educational wellbeing suffer during the 170 days each year when the school gates are closed to them. The Summer 2016 Vacation Education Impact Report is set to be launched in the House of Commons this week by MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali.
In the report, Futureversity reveals that increased financial pressure, food insecurity and social isolation are having a detrimental effect on 1,000s of young people across London during the school holidays. With ‘big hitters’ like Jamie Oliver raising the profile of this issue, Futureversity is calling for schools in deprived areas to keep their doors open during the holidays.
Futureversity’s Chief Executive Officer, Michele McKendry, explains: “Our work has shown that by keeping the doors open, and providing structured, fun learning opportunities for young people, we can have a hugely positive impact on the way they interact with each other and their sense of engagement in school. We see improved GCSE grades and ultimately, we see young people who dare to believe that they can achieve more.”
In 2016, Futureversity received referrals for 300 young people from 10 schools in Tower Hamlets, Newham, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Hackney and Islington. A group of 150 was selected to attend their summer Vacation Education programme, made up of 13-16 year-olds predominantly from difficult homes, who displayed behavioural problems and poor motivation during term time. The young people signed up to attend for two days per week over the five-week summer holidays, where 3,000 breakfasts and lunches were provided, 2,100 hours of exercise were undertaken, 20 volunteer ‘peer motivators’ and 220 business volunteers contributed 1,320 hours of their time and offered each participant a minimum of three different workplace visits, giving them an insight into different working environments.
Following the programme, 100% of those who participated said they found it easier to settle into school after the summer programme than in previous years; 100% were taking more responsibility for themselves; 73.9% were more motivated to do well; 87% were happier than in previous years; 65% were asking more questions in class; 61% had engaged in new activities and 78% had made new friends.
Rushanara Ali MP commented: “As a co-founder, former Chair of Trustees, and now a Patron, it gives me great pleasure to launch Futureversity’s Vacation Education Summer 2016 Impact Report. Helping young people believe in themselves and raise their aspirations can go a long way to tackling disadvantage and promoting social mobility. This report demonstrates the importance of providing continued opportunities for young people during the school holidays.”
Without the kind of intervention provided by Futureversity, the negative effects of ‘empty summers’ can have a lasting impact on learning. Research* has shown that young people from deprived areas go ‘backwards’ during the long holidays as they have little stimulus - parents cannot fund activities which could help broaden horizons, such as holidays whilst their peers from wealthier areas are enriching their learning experiences and developing new skills during the same period. On return to school, it takes much longer for young people from deprived areas to re-engage and consequently, cumulatively year on year, this leads to an attainment gap.
The Futureversity programme offers a range of areas for the participants to get involved with, including Business; Skills for Life; Art and Fashion; Sport, Fitness and Wellbeing; Digital Media and Photography; and Music and Performing Arts - and has shown significant results. Every single participant in 2016 programme agreed that they had found it quicker and easier to settle back in to school after the break. Most of the young people said they would have spent the summer ‘lying in bed’ if they had not been taking part in the programme, but instead, they made new friends (78%), travelled to new areas (61%), and, most importantly, said they felt more motivated to try harder and do better than they had before they attended the programme (74%). All of the participants said that they felt more responsible for themselves, and many felt that they were more likely to enjoy working hard.
McKendry continues: “Our model goes beyond providing free school meals in the holidays – an essential resource in itself – and aims to create hubs, where children from deprived areas are given the opportunity to continue learning, to continue to interact with peers and make new friends. We are empowering these young people, and bridging the social divide – ultimately, we aim to eliminate the childhood of empty summers that so many young people face and to shine a light on the educational blind spot which currently lets so many of our young people down.”