Nurturing young learners to reach their true potential
by Kevin Hougardy – Learning 4 Life Tutor
The spirit and resilience of young people has humbled me many times during my teaching career.
By definition, if a young person is referred to Learning 4 Life, it’s because they’re a long way away from being ready to work or engage in education but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to learn, or work, or develop themselves.
Before a young learner begins their journey with Learning 4 Life, we openly talk to them about what they would like to do during their time with us. We ask them to think about the things they feel they can’t do but would wish they could do. We ask them to think about what trips them up in daily life and annoys them or what do you want to be good at that you don’t feel good at now?
It’s quite common for a young person to say something like…“I never had the chance to do creative writing in school because they put me in the naughty set…” But with Learning 4 Life, they get that chance. By asking the right questions at the start, we’re able to create a bespoke programme around a young person, nurturing their learning experience every step of the way.
Something almost all young people being supported by Learning 4 Life have in common with each other is that they’ve left school with few or no qualifications, the reasons for that can vary. I’ve tutored young people who’ve struggled to engage with school because their family relationships have broken down. I’ve also tutored young people who’ve gone into care or have been bullied. It’s also not uncommon for a young person to reach Year 11 in school, with very low attendance, and for them not to have opened up to anyone about why. There are all sorts of reasons why a young person might not have attended school as much as they should have, including traumatic events at home, but it’s so important to understand this.
It falls to us as tutors, to disentangle what might have happened to a young person during their time in school, but there’s more than just school experiences to focus on. Young people we support may be in care or have had experience with the youth offending service or be receiving support for drug and alcohol misuse. There are many complex reasons why a young person may need the nurturing and tailored support of Learning 4 Life, these are just a few.
Supporting young people with such complex needs is definitely not without its challenges but the daily structure Learning 4 Life creates for young learners really does make an incredible difference. A typical day here is very different to a typical school day. If I had to sum it up, a young learner recently said to me ‘I can speak freely and I fit in here…’ He told me he was almost always put in isolation in school, so to be able to speak freely in a learning environment was a new experience for him, as was fitting in.
It’s such a good feeling to see and hear learners say they’ve achieved things, be it soft skills like confidence or more quantifiable things through Essential Skills Wales and Agored accreditations. I had the pleasure of tutoring Ryan* earlier this year, who’s gone on to college since leaving Learning 4 Life.
I do what I do because it enables young people to do what they can do; so they can realise their true potential.
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Last year, L4L supported 248young people to achieve 417
qualifications and accreditations.