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We were invited by Essex Boys and Girls Clubs to attend their outdoor learning facility at Layer Marney Tower in Essex and meet a group of young people who were possible candidates for the Respect Project.

The Respect Project, is a targeted programme that supports students who are struggling with mainstream education within identified schools.

In 2023 Essex Boys and Girls Clubs will have delivered 11 projects in eight areas of the county, these are part funded by the VVU. The programme utilises outdoor activities and life skills sessions to help young people re-engage with their education.

Fifteen Y9 pupils from a school in North Essex had been chosen by their teachers to attend a day at the outdoor centre. The pupils had been chosen for reasons such as low self-esteem, trouble making friends, having low confidence, or other issues such as things going on at home that were affecting engagement at school.

During the day the students were continually assessed for their suitability to go on to attend the Respect Project, a 12-week course that ends with a weeklong residential in the Lake District.

During the day the young people learnt about resilience and survival, how to take control and assess a situation with the STOP method (Stop, and stand still; Think, what’s gone wrong, how can I resolve it; Options, work them out; Plan, make a plan, what will you do?)

The young people worked in groups to safely light and control a fire, they had to work as a team and support each other. There was a good discussion about their mental health needs and what helps you to go from surviving to thriving.

Bruce, who leads the course from Essex Boys and Girls Clubs got all the young people to participate by leading the day with the right balance of authority and humour, all young people were keen to answer questions and encouraged to put forward their views.

The outdoor day is replicated with 32 schools across Essex and from these 32 schools 480 young people attend an outdoor day with then 180 pupils from across all the participating schools, selected for the Respect Project. Working with young people from different schools breaks down barriers and the residential experience takes the young people away from their everyday experience, letting them put into practice all the skills learnt on the Project.

Young people leave the course with an increased sense of self-worth, confidence, and motivation. The course having had a positive impact on the lives of those attending.