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9th July 2024 · Articles

Innovative educational pilot scheme proves teenage engagement success

An innovative pilot scheme aimed at enhancing teenage engagement completed successful trials in four regions of the country.

The results of this ground-breaking initiative were unveiled at a special event on Tuesday, 20th February 2024, at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.

The HAF (Holiday Activities and Food) programme, a nationally recognised initiative, had a proven track record of providing enriched, exciting, and engaging activities along with nutritious meals for children and families. Recognising the need to address teenage engagement (ages 13 to 16), the HAF Plus extension was developed through collaboration between a research team from Northumbria University, Gateshead Council, Mayor’s Fund for London, Northumberland County Council, and Street Games Birmingham. Young people from these regions actively participated in design workshops to co-create both local and national HAF Plus frameworks tailored to their needs. The HAF Plus pilot events took place during the summer holidays of 2023, demonstrating significant success.

The one-day HAF Plus conference served as a platform for young people to share their first-hand experiences of how the program positively impacted their summer of 2023. Key partner organisations had the opportunity to gain comprehensive insights into HAF Plus initiatives and explore ways to support and engage the program within their respective areas.

Chris Johnson from Northumberland County Council’s lead partner organisation, Bedlington-based youth charity Leading Link, emphasised the necessity of the event: “Our young people are vitally important to us all; however, research showed that the HAF Programme, in its current form, was not appealing to the teenage cohort of young people. We gave young people all across Northumberland and North Tyneside a voice and encouraged them to help in the co-design of a local and national HAF Plus framework that can be rolled out nationally.”

In Northumberland and North Tyneside, Leading Link worked with over 60 young people last year to establish their needs and views on what is important for them and their peers. With 10 camps running during the summer holidays, engaging with over 300 young people to make sure the activities they did were right for them and designed by them to encourage their future engagement and enrichment.

In Northumberland and North Tyneside, Leading Link worked with over 60 young people last year to establish their needs and views on what is important for them and their peers

Gateshead Council’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Catherine Donovan, shared her enthusiasm for the programme’s success and expansion: “The scheme was trialled in Gateshead by 40 young people throughout the summer holidays and the feedback we received was fantastic, with the pilot deemed an overwhelming success. We’re delighted to be able to roll out the HAF Plus scheme to a further 400 Gateshead teenagers across Summer this year.”

The Mayor’s Fund for London was the largest independent provider of holiday food and activities in the capital, supporting young people to be happy, healthy, and motivated to learn. Via 100 Kitchen Social hubs, the team took a test and learn approach, embedding the HAF Plus ideas of young Londoners and their peers from across the country into established programs that tackle holiday food insecurity and social isolation. Engagement with young people aged 13+ increased to 29%, reflecting the power and impact of involving young people, the real experts, in service design from the very beginning and creating an equitable table for them to sit around and have a voice.

The Mayor’s Fund for London was the largest independent provider of holiday food and activities in the capital, supporting young people to be happy, healthy, and motivated to learn

John Jones, Communities Project Manager at Mayor’s Fund for London, highlighted the impact of involving young people in the design process: “By championing our experts by experience and putting young Londoners’ views and needs at the centre of our programs, we plug genuine gaps and enable young people to not just survive, but thrive. What’s more, young people recognise that their suggestions were truly valued and acted upon, which often empowers them to speak up more.”

The conference featured guest speakers, presentations, and insights from local businesses that supported the young people, emphasising the collaborative effort to empower and engage the teenage community. Chris Johnson of Leading Link added, “The power of the young people who took part really shone through. I am proud of them all and we are delighted to announce that because of this conference we will be looking at ways to team up with others throughout the UK to establish best practice and really make a difference to the lives of our young people.”

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