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Blog post

Empowering excluded girls through literacy: the journey of the Represent programme

06 Sep 2023

Represent programme resources. jpg

Today, we're excited to share the inspiring journey of the Represent programme, an initiative designed to support excluded girls and those at risk of exclusion from mainstream education.

Every girl deserves the joy of reading

The Represent programme was born out of a simple yet powerful belief: every young person deserves the joy and empowerment of reading. In our increasingly diverse educational landscape, we noticed a rising number of girls finding themselves in alternative provision (AP) settings, where they often faced unique challenges. These girls, once considered a minority within a minority, were now growing rapidly in number (Agenda, 2021). It became clear that their specific needs and aspirations required a tailored approach to literacy intervention.

Facing unique challenges

The challenges these young girls face are undeniable. Statistics show that only 4% of excluded students pass their English and maths GCSEs. The risk of young people not being in education, employment, or training (NEET) after leaving alternative provision (AP) is a pressing concern (CFSJ, 2020). These sobering facts underscored the urgency of our mission: to bridge the educational gap and transform the life stories of these individuals.

A safe haven for learning

One of the most heartening aspects of the Represent programme is the safe haven it creates for these girls to learn and grow. We discovered that these girls often flourish within the intimacy of small group dynamics, where they can openly discuss issues that matter to them. The feedback we received from them touched our hearts: "Could the project last a bit longer than this? Because I enjoyed it," and "If I could, I'd stay here forever. I love this lesson."

Notably, teachers reported their enhanced self-confidence and improved communication skills also spilled over into their other classes, as they felt more at ease expressing their thoughts and uncertainties. The small group dynamic allowed them to forge meaningful friendships and learn from different perspectives, enriching their educational experience.

"If I could, I'd stay here forever. I love this lesson."

Participant, Represent programme

Giving a voice to the voiceless

One recurring theme that emerged from our participants was the desire to be 'heard.' Represent provides a valuable platform for these girls to be seen and heard, fostering a sense of validation and empowerment. Some students even reported a 'sense of loss' after completing the programme, a testament to the transformative power of this initiative. In response to their needs, we are actively developing post-intervention materials in collaboration with participants to offer continued support.

Impact on teachers

It's not just the students who have been positively impacted by Represent; some teachers have also reported experiencing profound transformations in their professional development. With many report that taking part in Represent was an inspiring opportunity to simultaneously nurture students' literacy skills and well-being. In fact, one head of department was so inspired by our oracy training that she redesigned her setting's entire curriculum, placing oracy at its core!

The power of inclusivity

Engagement and representation have played pivotal roles in the programme's success. Our facilitators' questionnaire revealed that a remarkable 58 respondents observed their students engaging 'extremely well,' 'very well,' or 'moderately well' with the programme, a significant achievement given the demographics of the targeted young people. The choice of resources has been instrumental, as facilitators reported that the students saw themselves represented in the materials, resulting in increased openness and receptiveness.

A journey of empowerment

For the girls who have participated in Represent, it has been nothing short of an empowerment revolution. The overwhelmingly positive response from our facilitators' questionnaire validates our commitment to representation and inclusivity. The choice of resources that reflect the girls' experiences has fostered openness and receptiveness, making them feel valued and empowered.

As we continue our journey with Represent, we hold firm to the belief that talk is not just an essential tool for literacy but a powerful force for transforming lives. With encouraging findings from external evaluations, we are more committed than ever to ensuring every voice is heard, every story is shared, and every girl discovers her power through speech. Together, we will continue to unlock the boundless potential of these students, one empowering conversation at a time.

In closing, we invite you to join us in celebrating the remarkable journey of the Represent literacy programme. You can find out more about the programme here and read the full evaluation here.

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