For the past two years, Urban Hope has been working with the Caspari Foundation to provide intensive individual support to young people making the transition to secondary school. Each year, we work with six students who are moving into year 7 and have been identified by their school or family as being at high risk of struggling with the move.

In part one of our New Year blog series on transition work, we hear from Caspari Educational Psychotherapist Elizabeth Cohen about the challenges of transition, why they are greater for some students than others, and the difference that additional support can make.

“Transition to secondary school is a big shift for all young people because it involves big external changes to the pupil’s routines – finding one’s way around in a much larger environment, getting to know new people and generally being a ‘small fish in a large pond’ – and also the loss of a secure base in primary school where teachers know pupils individually and can respond to their needs accordingly. Young people might lose friends going to different schools, have difficulty making new ones, and face the fear of being bullied as the youngest pupils in the school. All this happens during the onset of adolescence, which is a turbulent time in itself.

Some young people find the transition even more difficult than others. They may have already experienced significant trauma or loss – anything from parents separating to the death of a family member – and the transition can evoke the memory of these earlier experiences. The birth of a new sibling, a house move, a parent’s mental illness or struggle with addiction can all be factors that make adaption to new environments harder for a young person. Looked-after children, having experienced a much higher degree of family break-up and loss, tend to find transitions particularly hard. Feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, difficulties in keeping up with the new pace of learning and adjusting to stricter rules and regulations are common difficulties.

In the classroom, students who are struggling with the transition will often cause low-level disruption, chatting to their classmates, making noise, tapping on the desk and other behaviours, generally avoiding learning and disturbing the learning of others. In some cases they deliberately ‘misbehave’ in order to get sent out of class so that they can avoid the learning environment altogether. In time, and without intervention, they may give up and start to truant or refuse school altogether, or, be temporarily or permanently excluded.

Educational Psychotherapy is a way of helping children and young people who have emotional barriers to learning and who struggle with social development. In 1:1 sessions, a child or young person can explore areas of difficulty with the help of a trained therapist Educational Psychotherapist (EPt) through the metaphor of books, games and other media. Problems tend to be looked at in a slightly indirect or oblique way, which can seem less threatening to the young person.

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Merry Christmas '17

15 December 2017

We finished off a great year of youth work on Wednesday night with the annual Urban Hope Christmas Party, where Hopefuls and their families plus volunteers and the Urban Hope team get together for an evening of games, crafts and eating!

This year's party featured the first ever performance by the newly-formed Hopeful Voices choir, who've been practising hard these past few weeks to prepare. Special thanks go to Rachel Lindley for leading the choir, and to all our amazing volunteers for helping out on the night itself and throughout the whole year.

URBAN HOPE WILL BE CLOSED FROM 16th DECEMBER, REOPENING ON TUESDAY 2ND JANUARY. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM EVERYONE AT URBAN HOPE.

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Girls Giving Back - Part 2

18 November 2017

Back in the spring, we wrote a blog post about a Nearly New sale that Urban Hope Girls Club hosted to raise money for causes they wanted to support in the local community. The sale raised nearly £700, which the girls decided they wanted to use to contribute to the work of Solace Women's Aid, a charity supporting women and children affected by domestic violence. Solace specified that they most needed children's duvet covers and board games. They also asked for toiletries, which the girls wrapped up in welcome parcels to be given out to women arriving at the refuge.

We are really proud of all the thought, effort and time that the girls have put into making a positive difference in their community this year.

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Summer at Urban Hope

21 July 2017

On Monday we're launching our 2017 Summer Programme of activities to keep young people busy and active over the summer. From 24th July, our weekly timetable looks like this:

Monday 6pm-8pm – Tennis at Rosemary Gardens

Tuesday afternoon – Trip

Wednesday 6.30-8pm – Junior Club (8-12s)

Thursday 3-5pm - Sports taster sessions (11-18s)

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Girls Giving Back

17 March 2017

The thing we most want for Urban Hopefuls is that they grow up to fulfilled adults who have good relationships, and are able to play a positive role in their own community. So we are especially proud of our Girls' Club who are organising a Nearly New Sale at Urban Hope to raise money for some community events they'd like to make happen in the coming year.

This is their poster for the sale - we'd love it if lots of people came along to support them. And if you're not able to come on the day but have some clothes you would like to donate, please email Tanya@urbanhope.co.uk

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Competing with social media

16 January 2017

It’s not unusual for a group of young people, left to their own devices, to sit together in a room, one earphone in, staring at their smartphones and totally ignoring each other in favour of looking at snapchat, or Instagram. They’ll be looking a picture of the girl next to them, taken 10 minutes before, or a video of someone falling over. During sessions we shake things up, get them talking, playing, cooking, making etc but the pull of social media is very strong, and promising discussions are often disrupted, curtailed or killed by a noisy meme.

That can be frustrating but there’s a darker side too: children and young people who can’t escape bullying even outside school or college because it follows them home on their phone; naked pictures shared without the knowledge of the person in them; and the facilitating of jealousy (girls and boys obsessing over whose pictures the person they are dating has liked).

Author and speaker Simon Sinek argues that we should consider treating social media like anything else that is highly addictive and restrict young people’s access to it: “We know that engagement with social media releases a chemical called dopamine; it’s why we count the likes, and look 10 times to see why our Instagram is going slower. Dopamine feels good. It’s the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, drink and gamble… We have age restrictions on smoking, drinking and social media, but not on social media and cell phones.”

Lots of people don’t agree (see this millennial’s cutting response). But there’s no doubt that, in getting young people off their phones and into the room (in more than just body), youth workers face a challenge that didn’t exist 10 years ago. We’re trying various strategies to overcome it at the moment: turning off the wifi or getting Hopefuls to ‘earn’ the wifi code by helping with cooking or having a discussion they’ve been avoiding, banning phones at the dinner table. But we’d love to hear your ideas, and what has worked (or failed) for you.

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One of the things we like to do at Urban Hope is to give people the opportunity to spend time with and understand the lives of people they wouldn’t otherwise meet. So, we invite adults with different careers and interests to volunteer here so that Urban Hopefuls can hear about a wide spectrum of different ways to live life. We’d like that to go both ways, for adults to have a chance to hear more about the lives of young people growing up in Islington today. So we’ve been inviting Urban Hopefuls to give us a snapshot of what is going on in their lives now. This week we heard from a young woman of 18 who has been part of Urban Hope for a couple of years:

The things I like are drawing, reading, swimming and gaming. I did a college course in construction, painting and decorating but I’m now looking to do a different course in special effects make-up. I’ve got a part time job at McDonalds. I live on my own, and my mum thinks I don’t use my resources well enough but prices have gone up, and I struggle a lot. I think finding work is difficult for people my age – people are less likely to hire us because we don’t have much experience.

Teenagers get a bad rap. A lot of teenagers drop out of school because they think it’s not for them. I had a horrible time in secondary school, I was bullied and nothing was done about it. I know a lot of teenagers who carry knives because they feel unsafe, and they’re not told what to do in difficult situations. Adults and the older generation think we have so much because we have computers and stuff but I feel really isolated.

I worry that I’m not going to do well and get where I want to get. In the past when I was worried I used to self harm but I haven’t done that for a while so I’m proud of that. I matured quite fast because of crap that happened in my life. When I was younger my mum didn’t know any other mothers so there were no other kids around, I was mostly around adults.

I find it hard to talk to people and make friends and not be weird. I’ve been cheated on in almost every relationship I’ve been in. Hopefully in five years I’ll be settled down with a nice job, and living in the countryside. I’d like to be able to have a partner who I can talk to, who can help me and I can help them; someone who you can have a laugh and a joke with but who can sit down and have a serious conversation too. I have depression and anxiety, and for me being happy is when I’m around people who understand and won’t judge me.

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Matthew (above, centre) is 15 and has been coming regularly to Urban Hope since January, after a friend brought him along to try it out. He came on his first residential trip with us a couple of weeks ago. This is what he said about it:

"I heard about the residential, and I didn’t have anything else to do so I thought I’d try it. I was expecting it to be a bit boring; I thought it would rain and that would mess things up, and that the activities wouldn’t be that much fun. But it was actually really fun. The best bit was having space away from home, and it was all stuff I could do. I enjoyed walking in the woods and exploring. Banana boating was something new, I’d like to do more of that. I played sardines for the first time, and that was fun too. The house was old and a bit creepy, and that made it exciting.

I’d been to the countryside once before but to a different part. You get experiences that you don’t get round here, like being out in the quiet and dark and exploring places you haven’t been before. We haven’t got woods round here, and it was so quiet and so dark at night, and it made you notice how busy and noisy life is here.

I’d never been stayed away somewhere with friends, so that was good too. There was lots of jokes. It was better without wifi because if there’d been more wifi, we’d all have been in and playing on our phones and when it was time for the activities we’d have been sighing and stuff. I had data on my phone so I could have been on it the whole time but I didn’t want to be because there was experiences to have.

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The same but different

27 June 2016

The Urban Hope team hasn’t been blogging much of late. Partly, that's because it has just been business as usual but really there is nothing usual about the business of youth work. Since our last blog post we have seen young people dealing with exam stress, falling out with friends, falling in love, struggling with bullying, finding themselves homeless, finding a sport they love, having severe health problems, following their dream and achieving success, being excluded from school, getting into trouble with the police, getting into trouble with parents, moving to new schools, learning new skills, making new friends. It’s all familiar and unfamiliar at the same time because every young person is different.

And here are a few of the things we’ve done with Urban Hopefuls in that time:

  • Cooked dozens of meals and sat together around a table to eat them
  • Entered a competition
  • Gone on two residentials
  • Designed t-shirts
  • Attended meetings with schools and social services
  • Hosted a party for residents of a local sheltered housing facility
  • Played hours and hours of table tennis, pool, table football, dobble, uno…
  • Formed a (small!) running club
  • Washed up a lot of pots and pans
  • Held a six-week sketching project
  • Talked about elections, relationships, social media, food, friendships
  • Had a dance-off
  • Held a casting session
  • Run a boxercise session
  • Made badges, keyrings, magnets, papier maché letters, cakes and brownies.
  • Been to the theatre

And the summer has only just begun, so watch this space…

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The challenges of year 7

3 February 2016

The journey from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood can be a very bumpy ride. It is one long transition, and the point of Urban Hope is to accompany young people through that transition. There are particular ‘pressure points’, one of which is the move from primary to secondary school. Over the past few months, many Urban Hopefuls have had a very difficult time adjusting to life in their new schools. They struggle with leaving their friends and a familiar environment to go to a much bigger pool with new rules (that are much more strictly enforced) and the nature of the relationship with teachers is totally different. Alongside this they are trying to build new friendships and find their own identity in a unfamiliar setting.

They deal with this in different ways some talk about it, some cry a lot, others start being difficult at home or adopt destructive behaviours like self-harming or not eating. At school they might lock themselves in the toilets or they might cause trouble at school (and sometimes, ultimately, et excluded). Some start skipping school altogether.

The primary schools that we work in partnership with feel frustrated that they work very intensively with specific pupils in order to keep them in school only to see them excluded within the first few months of secondary school. We are looking at ways to address this, through mentoring, through working with other organisations to provide coordinated sustained support for young people who are most likely to have difficulty adjusting to secondary school. Alongside that, we continue to do what we have always done, provide consistency in times of change, a safe space for young people to come back to and adults they know and trust.

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