Wendy has been living in the UK for almost 20 years. She has a husband with very limited English, and she is a mother of a 9-year-old with communication and developmental needs. The child has an Education Health Care Plan in place. The Education Health Care plan explains the individual needs and allocates resources and processes that meet those needs on a day-to-day basis. When we first started working Wendy was very worried about her daughter’s education, lack of social skills and the possibility of her not achieving her full potential. The daughter hardly spoke except quietly to her mother. Her daughter was shy, timid, withdrawn, and anxious. Mum was unsure how she could support her daughter and what support she was entitled to. In addition, Wendy was not confident about asking questions or challenging the school. She struggled to understand what her child’s special educational needs were and felt responsible for her daughter’s lack of academic ability. She often felt dismissed and undermined by professionals because her English was not good enough. She was worried that her daughter would be mistreated and bullied and isolated because she was shy. Her daughter struggled to contribute to discussion for fear of making mistakes.
Initially Wendy was supported by the social mobility coach to go through her daughter’s very detailed Education Health Care plan and successfully applied for the Disability Living Allowance. This meant the family can afford to pay for additional activities to support the daughter. Then with the assistance of Lambeth Information and Advisory Service a meeting was held to discuss what support could be received from the school and different activities and opportunities that would help her daughter to develop. It was identified that both mother and daughter would benefit from social interactions and assistance in planning how to interact in a variety of settings. The coach assisted Wendy to plan meetings with the school, consider what exercise could be done at home to reinforce her learning and to seek social opportunities for her daughter. Wendy was assisted to share her thoughts and ideas in English at all times.
The daughter was helped to become an active member of Baytree and was given a mentor. She was also signed up to Mathletics and participates in all activities available, both at Baytree and in the community. She is encouraged to record her thoughts and share her feelings. The coach accompanies Wendy to meetings and talks through information shared to ensure mum understands fully what is going on, whilst ensuring that she has her say and is able to articulate her experiences with professionals.
After nearly 2 years of working with Wendy she is growing in confidence. She has independently sought advice and support from the school and is more willing to represent herself to professionals. Her daughter has made huge progress both academically and socially. She is now speaking regularly and engaging with those around her, both adults and peers. She is actively participating in sessions at school and in Baytree, including mentoring and regular clubs but also participating in one-off events such as Vauxhall City Farm and Omnibus Theatre in Baytree. She has moved to a higher level in Mathletics and achieved above the set milestones in English and Maths at school.
When asked how she feels about the support received from Baytree Wendy said “Thank you so much to all at Baytree we have received lots of help and things are much better for me and my daughter. I would not have known what to do without my coach now we are getting ready for my daughter to go to secondary school and I don’t need to worry about her so much.
Fifteen-year-old Kayla was referred to Baytree in November last year by a local charity that works specifically with those experiencing violence and abuse. They and social services were supporting her around abuse she had faced and they were keen for Kayla to work with us. Kayla didn’t have much of a support network or many friends she could talk to and trust, and lacked confidence and self-worth.
Through a needs assessment with a youth worker, Kayla expressed that she wanted to build her self-esteem and develop skills that will get her into a good job.
We offered her programmes to build her confidence and develop her skills. Kayla joined our Spark programme, designed to encourage girls to value their identity and potential, become women who are comfortable and confident within themselves and grow as leaders who support those around them and positively contribute to society. She made valuable contributions to the anti-street harassment pamphlet the group designed.
Kayla participated in one off sessions like employability sessions at Royal Bank of Scotland which we incorporated into the programme to ensure girls who would not otherwise have this kind of access, are able to learn more about the different opportunities available to them. She also took part in visiting the Young Vic Theatre to watch the play Nora: A Doll’s House. Kayla is very passionate about acting and with the confidence she developed on the programme she was proactive in talking to the theatre professionals about how they had got into the industry. Impressed by her talent and enthusiasm for performing, she was given the lead role in the response piece to Nora: A Doll’s House, that girls from the Spark programme would write, rehearse and perform in conjunction with Young Vic.
During lockdown, Baytree provided Kayla with a laptop with which she used for her schoolwork, attend virtual Spark sessions and participate in the Young Vic project, which was turned into a digital scrapbook instead of a live performance. She was also allocated a mentor, who caught up with her once a week and helped her with the science schoolwork that she had been struggling with.
Baytree Staff had regular communication with Kayla’s mother, who reinforced at home the progress Kayla made with. She was extremely proud of what Kayla achieved over the last few months despite the challenges she experienced.
From being isolated and lacking confidence, Kayla has found confidence in herself by proactively going for what she wants. She has found a passion in acting and made good friends. Kayla said, ‘before I joined Spark, I didn’t really have anyone I could talk to – but I really trust the girls I’ve met and I know they have my back. In a catch up with a youth worker, she mentioned, ‘I’m so grateful that I came to Baytree. If I hadn’t been going to Spark, I wouldn’t have had the incredible opportunity with the Young Vic or met my mentor. This is just the start!’
Sparklers takes place weekly for girls in their final term of Year 6 and starting Year 7, it runs on Tuesdays from 4.30-5.45pm. It supports the transition from primary to secondary school by making it a smooth and enjoyable process.
Junior Spark is a weekly group for girls in years 8-9 on Thursdays from 4.30-6pm. Each term, the girls decide what topics they would like to work on or discuss – for example friendships, finding motivation, or challenges at school.
Spark Club is a weekly club for girls in year 10 and above and, much like Sparklers and Junior Spark, is a space for girls to develop life and leadership skills. Girls are empowered to understand and value their identity and potential. Spark currently runs on Wednesdays from 5-7pm.
Sparking Futures supports girls and young women aged 14 and above, who are interested in taking the next step towards their future careers.
The programme offers young women a range of employability opportunities including: