A “UNIQUE” alternative learning facility in Woking will teach its students skills that will last a lifetime thanks to funding from Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
STEPS to 16, which is run by the Surrey Care Trust, offers educational support to children aged between 14 and 16 who are struggling with mainstream education.
The curriculum, which focuses on functional learning – including English and maths – as well as vocational skills such as cooking, budgeting and sports, is tailored to individual students.
Youngsters struggling with a range of social, emotional or mental health needs attend up to three days a week before taking their exams at the end of the year.
Commissioner Lisa Townsend recently approved a £4,500 grant that will boost the facility’s life skills lessons for a year.
The funding will enable students to develop their critical thinking skills, which teachers hope will support healthy life choices and good decision making when it comes to issues such as drugs, gang crime and poor driving.
Last week, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Ellie Vesey-Thompson, who leads the Commissioner’s work on provision for children and young people, made a visit to the facility.
During a tour, Ellie met with students, joined a life skills lesson, and discussed funding with programme manager Richard Tweddle.
She said: “Supporting Surrey’s children and young people is vitally important to the Commissioner and I.
“STEPS to 16 ensures that students who are finding it difficult to continue with traditional education can still learn in a safe setting.
“I saw first hand that the work done by STEPS helps students rebuild their confidence when it comes to learning, and helps set them up for the future.
“I was particularly impressed with the approach STEPS takes to help support all of their students through exams to ensure that the challenges they have faced within mainstream education do not prohibit them from achieving the qualifications they need for future success.
“Young people who don’t consistently attend school may well be more vulnerable to criminals, including the predatory county lines gangs which exploit children into dealing drugs.
“It is important that we recognise that mainstream schools may be too overwhelming or challenging for some students, and that alternative provisions that help keep these students safe and enable them to continue learning are key to their success and wellbeing.
“The funding provided for life skills lessons will encourage these students to make good choices around friendships and inspire healthier behaviours that I hope will last for the rest of their lives.”
Richard said: “Our aim has always been to create a place where children want to come because they feel safe.
“We want these students to go onto further education or, if they choose, into a workplace, but that can’t happen unless they feel safe to risk learning again.
“STEPS is a unique place. There’s a sense of belonging that we encourage through trips, workshops and sports activities.
“We want to ensure that every young person who comes through the door reaches their full potential, even if traditional education hasn’t worked for them.”
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner also funds enhanced Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) training for teachers in Surrey to support the county’s young people, as well as the Surrey Youth Commission, which puts youth voice at the heart of policing.