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This is how we're helping children on to the right path in Birmingham

A programme designed to steer children away from crime and anti-social behaviour in south Birmingham has been hailed a success by pupils, parents and teachers.

Inspired Choices was launched by West Midlands Police and key partners in February and sees selected schoolchildren engaged in a range of activities to enhance social and teamwork skills, career aspirations and help them ‘connect’ with their communities.

National Trust

The scheme is aimed at 11- to 16-year-olds who have been identified through behaviour or attendance concerns at school, who’ve had tough childhoods, low self-esteem or who have already come to the attention of local police.

A group of 12 Year 8 pupils from Frankley’s Balaam Wood School have now completed the pilot Inspired Choices program − and results have shown better classroom attendance and behaviour improvements in and out of school grounds.

The 10-week activity schedule saw the children:
• Join the National Trust on a range of outdoor activities including bush-craft and survival skills; 
• Spend time with West Midlands fire-fighters on problem solving exercises and training drills;
• Practice first aid with Street Doctors;
• Improve health and fitness − plus cookery − at Northfield’s Eco Centre 
• …and learn about personal, road, rail and fire safety at Safe Side at East Side

Head teacher at Balaam Wood School, Damien McGarvey, said: “The pupils have enjoyed and been challenged by a range of experiences that, without Inspired Choices, they wouldn’t have been able to access.

“Importantly, they’ve been able to engage with these agencies that otherwise they may have been ‘suspicious’ about or not really understood the contribution they make to society.

Having a talk from the fire brigade

“They have been learning about and developing a responsibility for themselves as young people and citizens in our community. And I have no doubt that, as a result, some of them will go on to become one of those who serve and protect us in public services.

“On behalf of Balaam Wood… thank-you to all who made this happen."

In the eight weeks following the course, three-quarters of the children involved had achieved Balaam Wood’s 96 per cent attendance target − with three boys scoring 100 per cent records − while behaviour improvements were noticed by teachers and parents.

Inspired Choices is managed by neighbourhood police officers in south Birmingham − and PCSO Andy Ryan now plans to roll out the project to more secondary schools over the next year with Turves Green Girls School the next to get involved.

He said: “Levels of child poverty in south Birmingham are among the highest in the country so it’s understandable that young people will be presented with opportunities to make negative life choices or be dragged into anti-social behaviour or crime.

“West Midlands Police’s focus is now very much on partnership work to reduce harm through prevention and intervention at the earliest opportunity. That means working better with partners and communities to protect young people from harm, build trust and intervene early to prevent future offending.

Fire hoses

“It’s all about getting young people to appreciate and realise their potential… and the results so far have been really encouraging."

PCSO Ryan has recently secured £3,500 from housing form Willmott Dixon which will help fund Inspired Choices for the next year.

Lee Baker from West Midlands Fire Service is Co-Chair of Birmingham Community Safety Partnership that sees the police, Fire, Probation Service, local authority, health providers, charities and community leaders work together to support vulnerable children and target offenders.

He said: “It has been a pleasure to be involved from the concept of Inspired Choices. Through the South Community Safety Partnership (CSP) we recognised the need to engage youth groups early and offer them a different choice. 

“The CSP approved funding to set up and deliver the program focused on positive outcomes for the young people of South Birmingham including reducing demand for services. I would like to thank the teams who have delivered this programme through collaboration and in partnership."

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