Reading Football Club’s Community Trust are working with young people in Bracknell to make them more aware of the dangers and realities involved in drug use.
Those thought to be at risk of falling into the drug use scene are being invited to a series of programmes and workshops called ‘Positive Pathways’ and the scheme is proving very successful with pupils.
“Reading Football Club have produced the ‘Positive Pathways’ programme, which helps prevent school exclusion and therefore lowers the risk of young people being exploited by county drug lines,” explains Nick Young, Exploitation Prevention Manager from Bracknell Forest Council.
The programme itself is split into two halves - firstly a workshop element which features guest speakers invited by Reading Football Club’s Community Trust to talk about the realities of drug use, prison life or gang culture.
The second part involves a football training session run by the Trust coaches, encouraging the young people to be active, to work in teams and to acquire a set of skills that playing football can help to educate young people.
“Any child at risk of being excluded from school or who has been excluded are considered more at risk of being exploited by criminal gangs,” Young continued.
“The Trust coaches come to the schools over a six week period, delivering six sessions with a different guest speaker every week - someone who has experience of working with those who have suffered from drug use, someone who has been in a criminal gang who can talk with credibility and authority to help bust the myths of gang life being glamourous.
“People who have been there and done it, lived the experience. They can talk about the issues in a way that make the children listen.
“And the club brand helps the young people connect with the programme in the first place. It gets young people through the door in the first place, because they can recognise Reading Football Club and can connect with it.
“The Trust were able to provide us with some really good evaluation material from schools in which the programme has run in other boroughs. And we’ve got funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner to run this ‘Positive Pathways’ programme again, allowing us to focus on intervention and prevention of school exclusion at an early stage.”
The project has been received very positively by local schools in the area. “I have been incredibly impressed as to how the young people have responded to the workshops and we have seen not only a positive difference in their behaviours in school but also, parents have shared that their children are being more respective and are wiser within the wider community,” explains Railton Blyth, Deputy Headteacher at St Crispins School.
“I believe this programme has helped our students to manage situations differently and changed their outlook on what happens in the ‘real world’ – with some of the students, we have seen a real change in their behaviours during the programme and after – hopefully this can continue! I feel with the right, targeted audience – programmes such as these can make such a difference in the local area and the wider community,” adds Jack Symmons, Assistant Head of Year 7 at Bulmershe School.
And Steph Bendall, Assistant Headteacher Safeguarding & Inclusion at Maiden Erlegh School said, “This is a well-managed organised programme, with interesting guest speakers who make an impact. They were very enthusiastic and spoke from previous experience of making the wrong choices.”