December
20
Author
Richard Wilson
Transforming Lives for Good (TLG)

How were your school days? The best days of your life? Or was school always a struggle for you? Maybe your school days were more like the curate's egg, good in parts! For some, school is not a good experience from early days. 

Inevitably, any education system will to a great extent have to be geared to the majority. And however much flexibility might be arranged – and advice and help provided for pupils to help them reach their potential – there will always be those children who are unable to respond well. In reality there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to education, and when we are talking about children as individuals some children struggle.

TLG is a Christian charity that helps churches to bring hope and a future for struggling children. From school exclusion to poverty and holiday hunger, there are children across the UK facing some of the toughest starts in life. We're all about believing change is possible and that's why in all our work lies an unchanging resolve to transform lives for good.

Working nationwide, TLG has three different programmes to offer local churches: Education Centres, Early Intervention and ‘Make Lunch’ which fills the holiday hunger gap. Here are two experiences of TLG from different parts of the country.

Early Intervention

In Hastings, Geli, an experienced Christian counsellor, was increasingly saddened about what she was seeing in her work with children in local education. Having a strong desire for those children to receive the truth about who God created them to be, she discovered the work of TLG.

TLG’s Early Intervention work involves a team of trained coaches who each spend an hour a week with a pupil over the course of a school year. The coach, TLG training and support for the team and pupils are funded by a local church. Currently King’s Church in Hastings and Bexhill has five people trained as coaches, and with an additional coach from another local church, they are currently helping seven pupils at Key Stage 2 level. Initially King’s approached local schools seeking permission to bring in the programme, but now that relationships are well established it is the schools that seek out help. The headteacher of one local school recently told Kate, the local coordinator, that the school has included TLG coaching in the wellbeing journey they offer pupils. Recently Kate was invited to speak at a local SENCO forum.

Practically the hour-long sessions involve 40 minutes of art work and 20 minutes of ‘emotional literacy’, including teaching the children coping strategies, helping to build resilience and giving hope for future. Success has come in different ways, building self-confidence, helping after a family bereavement or serious illness, tackling behavioural issues and emotional difficulties, and addressing anxiety in a changing world.

Key to the work are the church-school-home connections. Parents have to be on board with the coaching, and connection with the family happens weekly. Coaches are thus often an essential bridge between home and school. 

Education Centres

The Manchester Education Centre is one of a growing number of such centres around the country. This is TLG working at the next level up. Generally, the centres have a specific local partner church. They function as independent schools helping young people aged 11-16 who are in crisis in their educational experience.

In the Manchester centre – which can take up to 11 children – teacher Emma is encouraged by her experiences. Struggling young people are given a second chance, and with low teacher-student ratios, much care and personalised help, they grow in confidence, have their aspirations raised and can reach their full potential – providing building blocks for a better life.

It is not easy work, but Emma sees the input of the staff as providing a consistent voice in the lives of the children, cheering them on and providing them with self-belief and hope for the future. It is particularly encouraging when children are enabled to return to mainstream schooling.

While the focus is entirely on the educational and behavioural needs of each individual child, ensuring they receive care and support tailored to their specific needs, the staff’s Christian faith is clearly expressed with the children, and to the referring schools.

Both in Hastings and in Manchester, a longer-term consistent approach makes the difference. Trust is built and families are invited to church events. And for its part, the wider church community provides essential prayer support.

Emma wants to encourage local churches to look at the needs in their area and get involved in transforming lives. Reflecting on the impact of her work with TLG Emma draws on the words of Desmond Tutu, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

To discover if your church should be standing upstream with TLG there is much information and encouraging testimonies on their website about the different TLG initiatives.