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Burnage students tackle truancy through a national project

23 May 2014

Lyndsey Boardman

Burnage Academy for Boys teams up with UCLan

Students at Burnage Academy for Boys are helping to tackle truancy in Manchester by taking part in a national project run by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Teenagers from the school are working with the Preston university in a project that uses a peer mentor approach to encourage pupils at risk of truancy and disengagement.

Funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the ‘Your Future, Your Life’ initiative has stepped away from the traditional reward schemes that dominate school attendance programmes and instead aims to motivate children to want to attend school by assigning pupils known for truanting with a peer mentor, finding out why they don’t want to attend school and enabling them to seek further help if necessary.

The school is piloting a toolkit created by UCLan senior psychology lecturer Dr Sandi Mann who is also leading the project. Students use the toolkit to look at ways to cope with stress and boredom. In addition, students are encouraged to develop new learning styles and complete self-diagnostic questionnaires that lead to targeted advice and resources.

“The programme is unique because we are adopting an entirely new approach to tackling truancy and encouraging pupils to take responsibility for their own learning so that they eventually want to attend school and feel much more motivated to do so.”

Around 30 students from the Academy have signed up to provide one-to-one mentoring. Some of the students involved in the project who were mentored last year have improved their attendance significantly. They report feeling more confident about school and enjoy having older students who have they have built supportive relationships with.

Some of the school’s year 10 students are producing a short film promoting the scheme so it can be rolled out across other schools in the region.

Peer mentor 15-year-old Lee said: “I think it works because it’s the students who are helping each other out so it’s less formal and we understand each other better. My own attendance has improved a lot since I took on this extra responsibility and I’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover because people skip school for all kinds of difference reasons.”

Dr Sandi Mann commented: “The programme is unique because we are adopting an entirely new approach to tackling truancy and encouraging pupils to take responsibility for their own learning so that they eventually want to attend school and feel much more motivated to do so.

“The project is called Your Future, Your Life, because that is the premise, they have to take control of their own lives and their own future.”

The scheme is currently being piloted in several other schools in Manchester, Lancashire and Yorkshire. Results will be published later this year.