Fight for Peace has been working closely with students from Newham Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) in recent months to build physical and mental wellbeing, and bright futures.
This collaboration is funded by the Multi Agency Specialist Taskforce (MAST) programme, a Department for Education funded pilot. As one of a number of partners working on this pilot, Fight for Peace’s role has been to provide its integrated offer of sports and personal development programme.
The programme aims to reduce the numbers of young people being absent from employment, education or training, and to improve mental health and wellbeing. It also seeks to reduce the numbers of young people being referred to external services by tapping into the skills of in-house youth practitioners.
The programme sees students from three Newham PRUs – Tunmarsh, New Directions and Apple – take part in boxing training at the Fight for Peace Academy, and explore questions and challenges, share thoughts and express opinions through personal development workshops. To date, 25 young people aged 12-16 years old have taken part in the programme.
“We have seen many students from the PRUs engage in the sessions provided and have seen an instant impact. The sessions provided give them a space to express themselves through sport and mentoring in a space away from school.”Abderahim, MAST Youth Practicioner.
This approach, combining physical activity with education and personal development, is the hallmark of Fight for Peace and it is bearing fruit in terms of the progress being made by young people taking part in this programme.
“Through the MAST programme, we’ve seen young people from our local PRUs really enjoy coming to Fight for Peace,” said Fight for Peace Academy Director Jean-Pierre Moore. “This is a space where we see the pupils feeling that they can be themselves, and get away from the peer pressure that many young people face in a school environment.”
“Our sport sessions are a way not only of releasing stress but also of learning a host of skills that can be applied to life and help us all succeed. We are seeing this in the young people on the MAST programme who are applying the lessons learned and taking them back into the school setting.”
“Thinking about one student in particular, we have noticed how just one single session at Fight for Peace made a big difference,” explained one of the practitioners working with the pupils from the PRUs. “They are now a lot more reflective about themselves, and have changed their attitude for the better. They see Fight for Peace as a sanctuary, and the zen that they find there, they bring back to school.”
The personal development spaces created by Man Talk (for young men) and Lutadoras (for young women) appear to be having particularly positive impacts for the groups. Students have reported really enjoying the opportunity to speak freely in these sessions and have deep conversations that may not always be possible in the school setting.
Man Talk sessions provide environments where young men can find their voice and hear from peers, surrounded by familiar faces in the room, and in an open non-judgemental setting.
In the female only Lutadoras sessions, meanwhile, young women from the participating PRUs hold a circle and take turns in describing how they feel mentally and physically, and discuss things they want to change and improve.
“This is a space where we see the pupils feeling that they can be themselves, and get away from the peer pressure that many young people face in a school environment.”Jean-Pierre, Fight for Peace Academy Director.
It’s a chance to open up, talk about feelings and different skill sets that participants want to develop. Young women in the sessions have reported feeling that the Lutadoras environment makes them feel in a safe and secure space, allowing them to establish connections among them, and build the confidence to share emotions and seek help.
“The project so far has been refreshing and rewarding”, said Abderahim Rebika, a MAST Youth Practitioner. “We have seen many students from the PRUs engage in the sessions provided and have seen an instant impact in their overall behaviour towards education. The sessions provided give them a space to express themselves through sport and mentoring in a space away from school. We hope to continue this great work and partnership with the PRUs and are excited to see what 2023 holds.”
Jean-Pierre is buoyant about what’s to come as the programme progresses: “We are so pleased with the early results of this programme,” he said. “The benefits that these young people are displaying is testament to the power of combat sports combined with personal development, and also to the power of collaboration between ourselves and our local PRUs in support of young people.”