A new focus on her future – Nia begins exploring further education

Nia was shy, disengaging with school and unsure of her career direction. Half way through her West London Zone programme she is now looking at university options, joining in with career development courses, and is excited to plan for her future

  • Nia was struggling to attend school and unsure of the direction she wanted her future to take
  • Her Link Worker, Fembe, supported her with workshops and events, all designed to motivate her career plans
  • Half way through her two-year programme, Nia has pitched ideas in a boardroom, visited Warwick University, and completed a summer school programme at SOAS university

Nia joined the West London Zone programme aged 17, shortly after enrolment into her first year (Year 12) at William Morris sixth form. She was struggling to attend school, often missing classes, and unsure of her career direction, networks and experience (known as NEET risks). After using a combination of teacher and parent insights, as well as a questionnaire called My Voice, a wellbeing measurement tool which helps to identify children struggling with their social and emotional wellbeing, it was felt Nia would benefit from the support and opportunities provided by West London Zone. 

She was joined up with her Link Worker, Fembe, who would be a trusted adult throughout – at school every day, Nia’s champion and mentor, designing and facilitating the two-year programme that would be specific to Nia’s needs. 

Finding Nia’s motivation

Fembe recalls Nia was shy and withdrawn at the beginning of the programme, with little interest in taking up new opportunities and with low motivation and engagement at school. However, she was actively engaged in community charity work, specifically on raising awareness of the humanitarian conflict happening in her home country of Eritrea – a topic with strong personal meaning. This connection – between personal meaning and motivation – helped Fembe devise her programme, which would be a combination of building confidence, promoting Nia’s autonomy, encouraging career direction, and developing tools to help her find effective and motivating strategies for revision. 

Supporting Nia’s development towards career choices

As well as holding regular one-to-one sessions, outlining goals and aspirations and challenges, Fembe also arranged for Nia to take part in a series of workshops and events throughout the year, all with her long term goals in mind – engagement in school, improved academic grades, and enthusiasm about her future career. These included a workshop on advertising led by a West London Zone media partner, the Media Trust, and weekly social skills and personal development workshops led by another West London Zone Delivery Partner, 2-3 Degrees, that equips young people with essential life skills to thrive in adulthood. In these sessions, Nia was encouraged to build her teamwork skills and was a valuable member of the group, contributing creative ideas and thoughtful responses.

Fembe also joined Nia on a student trip to Warwick University as the assistant trip leader. This was a unique opportunity for Nia to learn about higher education pathways by visiting a university campus, speaking with student ambassadors and discussing student life and career prospects with faculty staff from the Department of Life Sciences. Nia was particularly impressed by the investment in facilities and the range of societies on offer to undergraduate students and shared her reflections of the trip.

“It was great to sit in the large lecture theatre and listen to the second year students talk about their time at Warwick. I felt a bit like a student myself! I enjoyed walking around the campus as well as it gave me special insight into what a university experience might be like” 

Experiencing a boardroom

Nia also took part in an aspirational workplace insight day, set up by Fembe and in collaboration with our corporate partner Be UK Shaping the Future, a management consultancy organisation. Nia was given a project; to create and market a new product. Joining forces with another student, their invention was smart headphones which would have a range of cutting-edge technology solutions. Nia presented this to Be UKs CEO in the boardroom, pitching their brand name and logo. This was a hugely rewarding day, where Nia was able to learn about a professional workplace environment and build her communication, leadership and teamwork skills.

Nia attended an aspirational workplace day with Corporate Partners Be UK 

Summer programme with SOAS

With support from Fembe, Nia successfully gained a place on a week-long summer programme at SOAS university in Development Studies. The topic of the summer school was: "What is development? Power, inequality, and change". The whole experience was invaluable, especially to someone who had previously felt unmotivated about any future career or prospects. She was able to attend lectures by leading academics, debate key issues, and engage in study skills sessions to sharpen her critical thinking, all whilst learning about the UCAS process and how to make her future personal statement as impactful as possible. Nia met and worked with current SOAS students and had the opportunity to ask them about their experiences at university.

Her message to Fembe upon hearing the news was in sharp contrast to the withdrawn, disengaged girl at the start of the programme.

“Hi Fembe, I have exciting news, the SOAS summer school just confirmed my place!”

At the midpoint of her two-year programme

At the start of the programme, Nia had low confidence, peer relationship challenges, and feedback from teachers had highlighted concerns in her subject grades, but even after just one year of her two-year programme Nia had shown improvements throughout, no longer ‘at risk’ in careers direction and her grades had improved too – as well as her engagement with school!

She began Year 13 looking forward to exploring university options, currently considering Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Liberal Arts or International Relations, with plans to follow up with her Link Worker and school careers teams. She started weekly tuition for A level maths from one of West London Zone’s academic partners, Coach Bright, that works to help students become independent and resilient learners by matching them with university students to improve their grades, confidence and work ethic. 

At the end of her first year of the programme, Nia remarked:

“West London Zone supported me in school, signposting me to enrichment workshops and helping me to feel OK talking about my studies and how I might manage my time better. My Link Worker came to Warwick with me and made the trip feel well-planned and fun”

together, every child and young person can flourish.