‘We’re there to offer support to youngsters who need help’ says Portsmouth scheme

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Not everyone can get along with mainstream education, so measures have to be in place to offer those youngsters help and support.

It can be tough being a youngster at school.

There’s a lot of pressure to succeed and many children find themselves heading down the wrong path and mixing with the wrong crowd.

Mainstream school isn’t for everyone. And that’s why the Targeted Mentoring Support Services exists.

The service works with The Harbour School, which has various sites across Portsmouth and helps children with behavioural, social and emotional difficulties.

Schools will refer pupils to TMSS to enable them to continue their education with them. It means they can still study for their core GCSEs but can take on additional subjects which might be different to the national curriculum but that still match their needs.

It helps rescue hundreds of youngsters at risk of becoming Neets – Not in Education, Employment or Training.

Kirstie Atkinson is the lead pupil and family practitioner for The Harbour School. She says: ‘Schools will refer young people for various reasons. It could be that they aren’t getting on at school or they have had trouble.

‘So we will look at alternative tailor-made programmes for them.

‘We look at college and work experience and things they are interested at doing and things that meet their needs.

‘They could still be at school so we could be working to provide a varied timetable. They could be doing their GCSEs with extra activities.

‘We use lots of different provision.’

The scheme has a track record of success with more than 80 per cent of learners achieving accreditation in English or maths and 100 per cent of learners securing a post-16 destination.

The staff talk to the students about what they might be interested in doing and offer a variety of courses or subjects for them to take.

The scheme involves working with Highbury College to provide construction courses, and South Downs College to look at vocational courses covering topics such as sports, mechanics and catering.

And the fire service is involved to provide training courses.

Haha Hair salon in London Road, North End, offers apprenticeships for youngsters who want to become hairdressers.

Kirstie adds: ‘If young people aren’t able to make it at school, giving them a little bit of a different curriculum could settle them.

‘Each of the young people has a mentor attached to them to work on their skills and the different aspects of learning.’

Kirstie says there are many reasons why youngsters have found it difficult in mainstream school.

‘It could be that they had a long-term sickness. It could be a problem at home or it could be that they struggle with their academics.

‘But the mentors look at pathways to post-16 provision. We look at schools and colleges to provide a transition pathway to post-16 education as well.’