The student under the hoodie
When he first came to Aspire Education, he didn’t talk much. But he made it clear, that he didn’t want to be there. It wasn ‘t his fault after all, why he couldn’t go to school – it was no longer safe for him or his family to be in that part of London. His older brother had already been stabbed, his school friend had been killed and it was no longer safe for him to be in the area, where street crime and gang violence were a common feature of life for young people. Together with his family he had been relocated, with his GCSE exams a few months away.
For the first few weeks, the reluctant student came to our Centre. He talked little, rocked a lot with his hair uncombed and hoodie up – he was angry and traumatised. We had begun a programme of intensive 1 to 1 tutoring, coaching and mentoring. He was very much behind with his Science coursework, his Maths was weak and English was his strength. “Oh man…this is too long – just tell me what I am supposed to write!” This was his response to seeing what seemed a punishing schedule of deadlines for completing written science assignments. We made sure that he did both the research and writing himself and submitted the assignments to his old school for assessment.
The first time he met our English tutor, we had to catch a cab to where he was and do the poetry lesson in a cafe nearby the train station. It was a Sunday, and trains had been cancelled because of railworks. Even though we talked our student through the way to our Centre via the bus, he didn’t want to come – “I don’t do buses,” he said adamantly. “I might be seen”. He may have moved away from the danger of where he used to live, but he was still not safe. After our first English session, the tutor remarked to me on our bus ride home, “His understanding of poetry is really good!” Later on, as the programme progressed, his attendance and punctuality got better. After a few weeks, he was taken to the gym, became well groomed, ate healthier food and smiled. He also became an independent learner who worked through past exam papers on his own, no longer leaning back upset when his mistakes were pointed out to him, now ready and willing to learn and revise. We helped him apply to college, coached him through the interview process and he was allowed back in school to sit his GCSE exams. His mother was happy at the change in her younger son. Our 12 weeks programme was officially over. Nearly 2 months later, armed with his exam results and on his way to register for his college course, we spoke over the phone. As expected, he got his well deserved double ‘A’ for Science. “Shall I still go and register for my engineering course at college then seeing that I failed English?” he asked worriedly. We couldn’t believe what he told us. “What, you said you got a ‘U’ for English? Don’t worry, you just register at college. Tell your lecturers that there has been a mistake with the exam results!” we told him. There was not a shadow of doubt in our minds that these grades were wrong. We managed to convince the college lecturer to reserve a place for him on the course until we could get to the bottom of this. We did. Due to an administrative error, the exam board had not added the Speaking and Listening scores (that had been sent in late after an agreed extension) to his written exam results. Thankfully, his English GCSE grade was changed within a week of us providing the evidence of this. Finally, the student who came out from under the hoodie went on to successfully study Applied Science at College.