Brief Description of The Provision
The Prince’s Trust Fairbridge programme is “an individually tailored personal development programme for young people aged between 13 and 25. It combines one-to-one support and group activities through which young people gain the personal, social and life skills needed to stabilise their life circumstances and eventually move into education, employment, training or volunteering” (Fairbridge Toolkit). The Fairbridge programme is delivered throughout the UK, but this case study is based on the under 16s Fairbridge programme at the Prince’s Trust centre in Southampton.
National guidelines for Content and Delivery
The programme begins with a supportive induction phase. Many Fairbridge programme young people have struggled with more structured programmes in the past, are far away from reaching their potential, have chaotic lifestyles and are not aware of and/or unable to overcome problems in their lives. It is at this early stage in the programme that each young person will be linked to a dedicated member of staff who will provide them with regular one-to-one support before, during, and after the programme to help them to get the most from the experience (Fairbridge toolkit).
Each young person starts the Fairbridge programme with an Access course; an intensive week long course, with up to two nights away from home. The Access course is seen as the offer which has a real impact. Several of the young people spoke positively to us of their experiences on the Access course. One member of staff said “I do think that the Access course has the major impact on them…we have this five day block where you get masses of personal development done”.
As part of the Fairbridge programme, staff support young people individually as well as in groups. This enables staff to shape the sessions so that they work for each young person.
Personal and Social development is embedded across all programme content. Staff aim to use the activities to support the young people to build skills such as confidence and motivation, which will be transferable to other areas of their life (Claire, staff).
On completion of the Access course, young people continue onto a phase known as Follow-On which varies in length and frequency according to the young person. During the Follow On phase young people are supported to pick and choose from a variety of Follow On sessions appropriate to their needs. Activities are delivered by Fairbridge staff and partners who facilitate learning through a variety of different mediums including adventurous activity, sports, arts, technology, music and film. Follow On courses also present opportunities for young people to develop life skills, literacy, digital literacy and numeracy skills, and gain relevant accreditation and qualifications (Fairbridge toolkit).
When young people under the age of 16 are not in the Fairbridge programme they are either at mainstream school or involved in other alternative programmes.
Every Follow On session involves goal setting at the beginning and a review at the end. The goal is the skill that the young person is going to work on during the session and the review is an opportunity for the young person to be “reflective” about how the session has gone. The programme focuses on where the young people “want to go” so staff are concerned with progress and a personal journey.
When ready, young people are supported by their dedicated staff member in moving on to another positive engagement, a Prince’s Trust programme, education, training, apprenticeship, volunteering or employment (Fairbridge Toolkit).
When young people arrive for their Follow-On course they wait in an informal area, linked to the main staff offices. Here the young people talk informally on sofas amongst themselves, and with staff who ask them to check in their mobile phones and other valuables (for group safety and concentration); staff give these back at the end of the session. The group then have a briefing session in one of the larger learning spaces in the building. The young people are told what the day’s session will include and are given a choice over whether or not they want to participate. The Fairbridge staff want the young people to know that they have choices and that everything they do involves them making a choice “you’re talking about control you know all the time like you have control of your life, you are the one who is in control of your actions” (Fairbridge Programme Executive).
The Follow On sessions that were observed in Southampton as part of this case study focused on outdoor learning, art and cooking. The emphasis is on hands-on team work, practical skills, achieving something tangible, and doing something you wouldn’t normally do. A number of points emerged in the sessions we observed:
- The staff used a particular pedagogical framework/approach with the young people based around ‘comfort, stretch and panic’. i.e. does a particular activity or scenario mean the young person is in their comfort zone, being encouraged to stretch themselves or is making them panic. The aim is for young people to be in a ‘stretch’ zone with their activities and this is central to the social and personal development at the heart of the programme. The pedagogical framework is present in the planning session where the young people are encouraged to think about their goals for the day, what they will try, what they hope to achieve and how they will do this. It is also present throughout the sessions as the staff remind the young people of goals they have set themselves, as a form of encouragement.
High ropes session:
- Instances of challenge, support and reassurance were observed during the high ropes sessions. The staff appeared very capable in this regard, knowing when and how far to ‘stretch’ individuals, and when to get them involved with other tasks. One boy did not want to do any climbing, but he was given an important role controlling the ropes when his peers climbed, and in supporting his peers with positive feedback. Diane (delivery staff) said that, whereas in school it can be the case that young people are either included in activities or excluded from them, The Prince’s Trust ensures that all of the young people can get involved in some way. There is an inclusive ethos here.
- The high ropes session, and this is probably true of many of the outdoor activities, involved quite high levels of trust between members of the group. It required young people to trust other young people and staff members, particularly because all of the young people had varying levels of fear and discomfort about the height of the things they were climbing.
- The young people were encouraged to push themselves past the point at which they would normally give up. One reason for this may be that if a young person has done this before, knows they are capable of it, and the outcomes have been positive, it may encourage them to try this in other situations and areas in their life. One young person who didn’t complete a climbing activity the first time tried again and was successful. He said “look how much I’ve achieved”.
- The young people faced anxiety-provoking situations and articulated their fears. This involved them dropping their persona and showing vulnerability, expressing pleasure and pride in their accomplishments. There was the potential for the young people to feel a real sense of accomplishment during this session.
- Tactics were used to support the young people to engage and to make decisions. These were required even for the ice breaker. In both of the observed sessions the ice breaker followed a pattern: say your name, give a mark out of ten for how you are feeling today, and then a session-related question, such as ‘what is your favourite cake?’ Some of the young people struggled to answer some parts, so sometimes the team had to say ‘would you prefer a chocolate cake or a lemon cake’ etc in order to facilitate engagement. Staff had to make the task more manageable when it seemed too big for the young person.
- The planning sessions aim to support the young peoples’ development of their personal and social skills. The theme for this session was positive feedback. The young people were asked to think about how they felt when they received positive feedback. The ice-breaker fed into the aim, so the young people did an activity and then were asked to provide positive feedback on how the other team did.
- The cooking session, as with the high ropes session, proved to be very successful at engaging the young people and at promoting skills of teamwork, communication, and collaboration. It also encouraged the young people to think creatively.
Researcher field notes
Fairbridge programme Reward and Recognition:
Young people can achieve the Prince’s Trust qualification in Personal Development and Employability as well as external qualifications in adventurous activities, food hygiene, first aid etc. The Fairbridge programme also awards its own certificates for completing elements of the programme, such as the Access course, and achieving their personal goals. The Fairbridge programme arranges regular celebration events to recognise the achievements of young people e.g. lunch cooked by young people for their families.
Young peoples’ folders were full of praise, based not only on what was exemplified in the folder but also for the activities that were linked to pieces of work. Comments provided manageable aims and improvement points for the young person. Staff had also made use of photographs to document young people’s work, planning and progress
Researcher field notes
The Prince’s Trust celebrates the achievements of young people every year on a regional and national level through the Celebrate Success Awards. All staff, volunteers and partners can nominate young people across a range of categories.
Section 3: Identifying Features of Quality
Fairbridge is a social and personal development programme. The intensive access course aims to act as a ‘jolt’ in the young person’s life which may be sufficient to enable them to analyse the path that they are on and to try to do things differently.
“So just generally having somewhere where they can learn and do learn. Maybe they are not getting the best results in school but they can’t understand why and they don’t realise that kicking back at a teacher isn’t going to help them because they haven’t come to that realisation yet. So the plan is to give them somewhere where they start to build some foundations for success in their lives and so if they have success with us they are more likely to go out and transfer that into other areas of their life…we spend a lot of time making them aware of their own actions and I think the difference between us and school is that we are not trying to teach them anything in particular – we are teaching them to learn. If you don’t know how to learn then school or any job won’t work. We have the time and the ability to highlight things which might not work for them or things that do really work for them so that they can help themselves and, hopefully, go on to help other people as well” (Matthew, programme staff).
The initial Access course is followed-up and supported through Follow On. The young people are supported to take safe risks and, through this, they gain confidence and motivation and learn new routes to rewards. The hope is that this process will support the young person to begin to work through the reasons why they are struggling at school. It also puts in place a series of people and organisational infrastructure to support them with things like work experience, employment, and enlisting the support of other external agencies.
The Fairbridge programme is underpinned by a series of values which are embedded throughout The Prince’s Trust: inspiring, approachable, passionate, non-judgemental, and empowering. Fairbridge programme staff aim to treat all of the young people as individuals in a way that mainstream schools often cannot.
Fairbridge programme Eligibility and Target Group
The Fairbridge programme works with 13 to 25 year olds who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment through educational underachievement. Eligibility differs according to the age of young people on the first day of their programme as follows:
|Compulsory school age, 13-16||Educational underachiever i.e. any of the following apply:
|Beyond compulsory school age, 16-17||Educational underachiever i.e. have not attained five A*-C GCSEs (including Maths and English) or equivalent|
|18-25||Unemployed i.e. any of the following apply:
Young people who are not working at all but on the payroll of any organisation (e.g. those on any type of authorised leave) are not considered to be eligible.
The Trust has identified target backgrounds and needs that are common and often faced by young people whom the Trust looks to support.
Target backgrounds include:
- looked after young people and care leavers
- offenders and ex-offenders
- single parents
- refugees and asylum seekers
- young people with disabilities
Target needs include:
- substance misuse
- offending behaviour
- mental health needs
- young people who have not attained five A*-C GCSEs (including Maths and English) or equivalent.
These disadvantages, especially when they overlap, indicate who are ‘the hardest to reach.’ The Fairbridge programme is aimed at the most disengaged young people in society – those who are far away from reaching their potential and have chaotic lifestyles. As such, the Fairbridge programme actively seeks to work with young people who fall within at least one, if not more, of The Trust’s target groups.
The staff in Southampton highlighted the negative view of school that many of the U16 young people have and the way that their experiences of school have left them feeling ‘useless’. Staff commonly support young people who like the see how far they can push the boundaries. These young people expect to be let down, so they push as far as they can. They expect to fail and would rather do so on their own terms (Diane, programme staff). Staff feel that it is really important that the right young people are referred. This is a social development programme, so it needs to be directed towards people who require this type of support.
Young people are often involved in the recruitment of new staff as part of the interview panel. Sometimes applicants will be asked to do a session with the young people so that the applicant can be observed. Someone was doing this whilst we were visiting. An applicant was asked to lead on the ice-breaker ahead of the high ropes session.
The Southampton staff felt that the multi-faceted recruitment process is important. Applicants undertake a written task, a chat with the staff, a formal interview, an interview with a panel of young people and run a fifteen-minute ice breaker. This process allows you to “just see something” (Programme Executive) and “a lot of it comes down to gut instinct when we meet them” (Programme Manager). If staff are not sure they ask the applicant to come and spend some time in the sessions.
The interview includes questions about the applicant’s experience of working with young people and their understanding of the target group and developmental work. . Broad experience is welcome, but The Prince’s Trust look for people who can build in the personal and social development aspects of the work.
Fairbridge programme staff roles
Fairbridge Programme Manager – responsible for operationally managing a Fairbridge programme team according to the toolkit and minimum standards and to region/country annual budgets. The programme manager maintains the quality of the programme, line manages the Programme Executives, and recruits and manages partners.
Fairbridge Programme Executive – responsible for planning, delivering and reviewing activities on the Fairbridge programme, caseload managing and providing support to young people, maintaining young people’s paperwork and TrustonTrack in accordance with the toolkit, minimum standards and data input guidelines.
Adventurous Activities (AA)
The Trust recognises that adventurous activities and residentials provide a vehicle for accelerated personal and social development and hence the Fairbridge programme, which works with those young people furthest from employment, contains a significant proportion of adventurous activities. This specialist, qualified team holds responsibility for the delivery of any adventurous activity sessions or residentials on the Fairbridge programme.
Outreach, Assessment and Outcomes (OAO)
This team supports young people through The Trust. These staff focus on finding the right young people, getting them onto the right programme, and increasing their opportunity of finding the right outcome once they have finished a programme.
- Programme Executive: one of the Programme Executives has been with the Fairbridge programme for 14 years. She enjoys the variety in the job. She worked in summer camps in America with young people facing tough circumstances in relation to crime and violence. She enjoyed this and decided to get the qualifications in England that she would require to move to America full time. She came back and started to work for Fairbridge and never left. She now has a diploma in outdoor education and a counselling qualification. She returned to education later in life.
- Programme Executive: Another Programme Executive worked at an outdoor centre before joining the team. He came with a range of outdoor education qualifications, which he had gained through an apprenticeship. He has had NLP training and training on managing challenging behaviour.
- Programme Executive: Another Programme Executive has worked in the outdoors since the age of 16 in various organisations, some educational based. She worked abroad for a while. She got the most satisfaction from education-based providers, and from working with hard-to-reach young people. She did a BA in Outdoor Studies, during which she came into contact with Fairbridge and decided she wanted to work for them so she applied for vacancies within several Fairbridge teams. She has been with The Prince’s Trust for two years and leads outdoor and creative sessions such as poetry and drama. She enjoys the variety of the job and the fact that she has creative input into the sessions. The staff have freedom to develop new ideas for sessions, and Claire (delivery staff) thinks that this encourages buy-in amongst the staff which then encourages buy-in from the young people.
- Programme Executive: another Programme Executive did a degree in Sociology during which she did a placement as a youth worker at YMCA. She worked as a youth worker after her degree both here and abroad and then sought out The Prince’s Trust because she really likes the organisation. It is well-established, well-structured and is more secure than many other charities.
- Fairbridge Programme Manager: has been at the Southampton centre for 18 months.
(Researcher field notes)
The team told us that the following traits and skills were important for staff to have when working with this cohort: being calm; having clear boundaries; not shouting; showing and giving respect; challenging young people; being able to relate to young people.
Diane (programme staff) identified staff as key to quality in Alternative Provision. She stressed the importance of the organisation/staff not getting too big. She said that it is important that the young people and staff know one another and have that continuity so that if a young person is having an off day the staff member can recognise it and the young person can know that it is ok, that the staff understand that this is a bad day, and that they can come back from that. Diane described how the Access course can be run quite differently and altered depending on the needs of a specific group. This suggests that flexibility and intuition/an understanding of the needs of these young people are important skills for delivery staff on the Fairbridge programme.
The Adventurous Activities team is well qualified in areas of outdoor education and youth work. The team are provided with regular training and there is an expectation that training is on-going.
Fairbridge staff actively seek training which is either provided by The Prince’s Trust Learning and Development team or external organisations. There is scope for staff to move between Prince’s Trust provisions and to get promotions. Staff praised the level of training they were offered by The Prince’s Trust, and felt that they had a lot of input into their personal development: “the level of training that we get is phenomenal: we have a whole training department and that is rare” (Matthew, programme staff).
Staff are starting to do the Education and Training Award, an introductory teaching course. Staff feel that this is an important addition to their training, and will improve the quality of their session planning and delivery. Matthew felt that it is was important that the staff believed in what they were teaching and that staff were monitored and stretched to ensure that they were practicing what they preached; i.e. personal development. This should not just be something staff teach at work, but something they live by and which is a continual part of their development: “It’s quite easy to sit in your comfort zone and tell other people to get into their stretch zone and if you do that too often you lose that empathy”.
The staff meet with their line manager once a month for a catch up and they have performance reviews with the Programme Manager. The staff felt that these catch-ups were important because the role can be quite emotional and difficult at times. This provides a vital opportunity to discuss any concerns.
The Southampton Centre has a handover meeting every morning, so that information is shared between staff. Staff use this meeting to discuss information about how the young person did in the previous session, what they’re going to work on next and what the young person needs to work on next. Staff saw this process as key; it enabled all staff to be up-to-date with where each student was. It provided them with an opportunity to discuss the wider concerns and context of the young people ahead of them attending a session later that day. This included updates from external agencies such as social services. Examples of the information discussed during our visit referred to a young person’s living arrangements and another provided an important update about the mental health of one of the young people who had been self-harming and having violent thoughts.
Staff discussed the young people’s goals and what they were working on, to reinforce this focus ahead of the session and to ensure that all of the staff were familiar with the relevant information on the young people e.g. Staff discussed one young person’s goals and said that he tends to set the same goals at the start of most sessions. However, since he is achieving this goal quite well now, he needs to be challenged to set different goals for himself. The meeting enables staff to suitably stretch the young people; sharing of information facilitates a sharing of high expectations. Staff discussed tactics for working with the young people, for example supporting them to make lists of things they want to achieve, and having a manageable goal for each session. This meeting provided a space for sharing concerns and discussing possible ways to move forward.
Staff also use this time to discuss other business, for example they discussed future events such as fundraising. Staff shared ideas and expertise around work experience, collecting ideas for the next steps for a particular student. A lot of feedback is oral to avoid too much time filling in paperwork; comments are then documented during the morning meeting. Staff view this meeting as a key quality process. It also ensures shared knowledge and responsibility for all of the young people, rather than a situation where only one staff member knows about or can work with a particular young person.
Rules and Discipline
In Southampton, the young people sign their phones, any other electronic equipment and any valuables in at the beginning of sessions. The staff ensure there are boundaries so that everyone feels safe.
Monitoring of progress
Young people set their own goals through their Personal Development Plan. They receive one-to-one support to set and review these goals. My Journey’ is the evaluation method used to track how young people are progressing across five ‘soft skills’ – communication, managing feelings, confidence, working with others and setting and achieving goals. Young people rate themselves against these skills at designated points throughout the programme. These ‘soft’ skills are an important part of tracking progress. These are fed back to the referring education providers.
Young people set themselves a target at the beginning of each session and are encouraged to evaluate how they have done in the debrief session at the end of the day. The aim is to make them more self-aware and responsible for their own targets and development.
Trust on Track is the main database used for gathering relevant profile and background information on each of the young people, as well as their journey through the programme i.e all attended sessions and meetings are recorded.
Most of the students who attend the Southampton provision are White British. Staff said that this may be due to the make-up of the local area. The majority of the students are boys. Staff are still working to find some alternatives which may engage more girls. There is also a wider piece of work in The Prince’s Trust at national level looking at this issue.
Everyone is treated as an individual on the programme. The staff felt that they can offer a more inclusive environment to a classroom of thirty, where a student is often taught in the same ways, which does not necessarily work for them. Their alternative pedagogical approach combined with a high staff-pupil ratio creates a more inclusive environment. It means that staff can adapt sessions and shape activities to fit the needs, abilities and talents of students. In this way staff increase the opportunities for success.
The provision in Southampton is mainly commissioned by schools, but there can also be referrals from other alternative provisions. This centre has an outreach team development worker to communicate with and visit schools to present the work of Fairbridge. Staff have a video which they show, and they can direct people towards a website. If schools have commissioned them in the past, centre staff will keep in contact with them. The centre staff have built up a network of schools with whom they have a good relationship who commission them regularly.
The relationship between the referrer and the Fairbridge team is important in relation to how well the school selects individuals and groups most likely to benefit from the programme. The better the referrer understands the nature and aims of the provider, the more effectively they will select young people.
The school fills in a referral form for each young person, and some schools send their own risk assessment, but the centre staff do their own risk assessment in addition. In this they seek information on the young person’s offending history, involvement with agencies, mental health and disabilities. There are also questions about how satisfied the young person is with their life, which staff use to generate further questions.
Each school usually has a designated member of staff to liaise with The Prince’s Trust. Staff speak with this school liaison person every two or three weeks.
Once a young person has been referred they will be visited in school, and they will also visit the Fairbridge programme. Some schools remain invested in the programme throughout. In some cases the centre staff have the opportunity to share their insights with the school in relation to what works well with a particular young person.
Relationships with Students
The young people have made a decision to be in the programme, and they re-make that decision every session.
The staff had a good rapport with the young people. There was a clear routine and clear boundaries, whilst participation and sessions remained flexible and adaptable. The staff were calm, well-organised and safe. Staff are very experienced and are good at reading situations and young people and knowing how to de-escalate problems.
During our visit some of the young people did question where a particular staff member was, and clearly they had formed attachments to particular members of the team quite quickly.
Staff challenge the young people on swearing with the aim of getting them into good habits for school and the world of work. Staff draw the young people’s attention to their own language and ask them to consider whether or not it is appropriate to that context, rather than telling them off.
Relationship with parents:
Staff liaise with parents. They call the parents of the young people they are expecting for the following day’s sessions, and remind them about times and what to bring. If students do not attend, staff contact parents. These phone calls can generate a conversation about how the week has been which often provides vital information about the wider context of the young people.
Resources and Networks:
Across The Prince’s Trust there are opportunities for sharing resources and knowledge. The staff also have a local knowledge in relation to employment and training opportunities.
Relationships with other Services and Agencies
Staff liaise with external agencies – particularly social workers and CAMHS – where necessary. This can provide important information on the wider challenges facing a young person.
The Southampton premises are in the city centre. It is a commercial building on three levels. Access is via an intercom and staff can see out of the window onto the street. Once admitted there is a small waiting area with sofas. There is a kitchen on every floor. At least one of these is industrial and can be used for cookery sessions. There are offices on the ground floor, and the other two floors have large ‘activity’ spaces.
The walls of the provision displayed a mixture of wall charts, photos, thank you cards, testimonials from previous ‘graduates’, and information for the young people. The wall charts were linked to skills and outcomes the young people are likely to be working on during their time on the program. There was a poster on the wall about ‘SMART’ goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time frame). The factual information was about college courses and substance misuse.
There were sofas in the area where the young people waited, which linked to the staff offices, where music was often being played. The décor and atmosphere here was basic and relaxed. Upstairs there was a good-sized, well-equipped kitchen for the cookery activities, meeting rooms, an equipment room and a large space where the young people could move around. This space also contained a large table which was where the two planning sessions took place. This table was also used in the cooking session. Claire (programme staff) said that this was the first time it had been used for cooking and she was pleased with the results; it did seem to create a relaxed and communal environment.
The centre has two mini buses of its own which are used to take the young people to the various outdoor sites that are used.
Places are commissioned and paid for by schools. Commissioners pay well below the actual costs of the course, with the difference made up from other fundraising sources.
One of the Programme Executives identified resources as key to having a quality provision. Their method of teaching the young people – “learning by stealth” – means that resources are needed so that staff can take the young people off site, to do a range of activities. The high staff to student ratio is also expensive.
The name and reputation of the organisation opens doors for them and sometimes enables them to access additional resources. Staff undertake local and national fundraising.
Well-managed, led and accountable
There is a clear management structure within the team. Staff are accountable via the wider Prince’s Trust mechanisms and evaluation systems. The programme managers in each centre have some discretion. They are given a delivery budget for the sessions and must stay within this, but can make decisions about which sessions to run.
Evaluation and Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance of Staff
The programme manager is responsible for the performance management of staff, including raising any issues. At the beginning of each year staff set objectives and targets. This will accord with the team business plan, which will accord with the regional business plan. This will include targets for how many young people they want to recruit. Each staff member will have personal objectives too. There is also a personal development plan where staff discuss their training needs. There is a mid-year review where staff receive a provisional grading, and then a formal grading is given at the end of the year. Part of this review is about how well the staff are demonstrating the values of the organisation in their daily work. Staff look for feedback on how they interact with young people and support other members of staff.
Evaluating the success of the programme
Diane (programme staff) spoke to us of success as manifest in many ways, and suggested that there are lots of small successes which pave the way for larger changes and successes for these young people. A positive outcome may be the student going back into school full time, but there may be soft outcomes too which the staff see as being equally important.
The young people feed back on every session. Staff get a feel for how well a session has gone based on the level of engagement. If the young people are not engaging staff know they need to change something. Staff compare the young person’s attendance and exclusion from before and after the programme to see whether their overall engagement has improved. Staff use the My Journey process to evaluate improvements in personal and social development. The Prince’s Trust use a follow up text survey with the young people. Staff contact the young people three months after they have completed the programme and ask them whether they are engaged in education, training or employment. Staff seek feedback from the school once the young person has completed Fairbridge, particularly around their attendance and engagement.
There is a centralised team that writes reports, and data is aggregated at the end of each programme, feeding into the national data picture for Prince’s Trust provisions. This information is used in The Trust’s wider fundraising work.
The Prince’s Trust have a member of staff who oversees contracts with delivery partners. Staff visit these providers to do quality checks and make sure that things are running as they should be.
Transformation (Choice and autonomy)
The young people choose to attend the centre and to participate in the sessions. The staff believe that it is very important that the young people want to be there. Young people are also encouraged to take responsibility for their own target setting. The students are involved in the recruitment of new staff.