Achieving her goals – Katie flourishes with football

  • Katie was becoming increasingly withdrawn, both in and out of school, which was having a knock-on effect in other areas of her life
  • A long-term plan was created which would build on Katie’s communication skills and confidence
  • Over the course of the two-year programme, Katie flourished, her grades improved, and she was chosen for the Under 16s female squad at Queen’s Park Rangers

West London Zone identifies children and young people who don’t yet require high-needs support, but who have a range of risk factors that could lead to more serious intervention later. Teacher and parental insight is combined with survey data via a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, a wellbeing measurement tool which helps to identify children struggling with their social and emotional wellbeing.

Katie was identified in this way. She had begun finding herself in conflict with her peers and with members of staff at her school. Her mother was growing increasingly concerned that she was simply disengaging, both at home and at school, and her teachers were similarly worried about her progress. She showed specific risks in peer relationships, emotional problems, confidence, wellbeing and school engagement; it was clear that Katie could only benefit from the additional support the West London Zone programme provides. 

Setting Katie’s goals – A long-term approach

She was joined up with her Link Worker, Fatima, who would be a trusted adult throughout – Katie’s champion and mentor, designing and facilitating the two-year programme that would be specific to her needs. Fatima met with Katie, her Head of Year, and her mother, to build a comprehensive picture and agree on some key objectives. For Katie’s mother, her main hope was that Katie “would start to feel more comfortable in social situations, and get involved with extra-curricular activities again.” Her school also wanted her to become more engaged.

Katie was encouraged to try everything at least once

However, the early stages were a little daunting – while being open to working with Fatima and the programme, Katie would at times disengage simply because she was apprehensive about working with someone new. But part of the strength of West London Zone’s approach is its longevity; a two-year programme of support means that there is time to lay strong foundations and guide along the way – there is no acceptance of a ‘quick fix’. 

Try everything at least once

Creating an appropriate and tailored support plan was key. Fatima began by asking Katie to think about what she did and didn’t enjoy about school, so that they could build a bridge between the two. They then started to outline some key skills that Katie could develop; problem solving, working with a positive approach, and building her resilience. For example, Katie was encouraged to try everything at least once before giving up, a shift in mindset that Fatima knew would be fundamental to any positive outcomes of the programme.

Lockdown doesn’t stop Katie’s progress

The nation went into lockdown during the second term of Katie and Fatima working together, and so all the support that was originally planned was adapted and moved to an online setting. That didn’t faze either of them, however. They had a weekly one-to-one wellbeing check-in, regular one-to-one calls focused on academic support, and a group ‘Thinking about Thinking’ session, a 12- week programme that builds academic confidence through encouraging academic self-efficacy. This programme in particular gave Katie the tools to sustain a more positive outlook on her learning, as well as explore how she could challenge herself further. Katie was soon starting to apply these newfound skills to her approach to lessons and external activities. 

Katie took part in the Link Worker support programme, 'Thinking About Thinking' to encourage academic self-efficacy

Delivery Partners delivering quality programmes

West London Zone’s joined up approach involves working with a number of Delivery Partners, local charities that give young people access to opportunities they might not otherwise have. They are fundamental to the impact of the programme, covering a wide range of interests, support, and activities – and often introduce the young person to a totally different way of thinking about things. 

When lockdown ended, Fatima introduced Katie to Element, an organisation that runs arts-based workshops for secondary-aged young people, focusing on using creativity to encourage self-expression and a positive exploration of identity. This gave Katie the opportunity to learn more about herself, and how this might impact her experiences. In Katie’s second year of the programme she then worked with ReAct, who provide weekly group drama therapy sessions. Through stories and role play, these sessions empowered Katie to be able to express her feelings in a safe space.  

Katie also joined a group of other West London Zone students for a five-day trip to Jamie’s Farm, a residential programme that allows young people to experience life outside of the city, building relationships and skills in a fun setting. Katie challenged herself to try new things and activities that, in the past she might have turned down, and at the end she realised that she had been working as a team with her peers.

Jamie's Farm uniquely blends farming, family therapy and legacy in a 5-day residential programme

Joining up support sessions 

To complement the learning and experiences gleaned from these specialist support sessions, Link Workers often create and deliver programmes that fit alongside. For example, to coincide with ReAct, Fatima delivered a programme called TalkAbout (Assertiveness). This supported Katie with the tools to understand the difference between being passive, assertive and aggressive, enabling her to communicate more clearly and avoid unintentional fallouts. 

A passion for football 

Katie had always enjoyed football, but her previous involvement had proved a large expense for her family. Knowing the importance of encouraging interests and passions, Fatima introduced her to another West London Zone Delivery Partner, Queen’s Park Rangers Community Trust (QPR), while also providing Katie with new football boots through the West London Zone Opportunities Fund.

Katie joined the QPR Under16s in 2022/23

This access to the QPR coaches meant she could talk about her goals – both from a football and schools-based perspective – which gave her a great sense of purpose and motivation. She fully embraced the opportunity and, thanks to a combination of hard work and her experiences on the West London Zone programme –  she signed with QPR to be in the 2022/23 female Under 16s squad, playing in the Junior Premier League. She has now set herself the long-term goal of going to the QPR College Academy when she turns 16 years old.

Katie is on a path to progress

At the end of her two years working with Fatima and the West London Zone programme, Katie’s progress has been fantastic. Her Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire results now show no identified risks, and her overall behaviour at school has markedly improved. Her two original objectives – to develop better relationships with her peers and to be more engaged at school – have not only been demonstrably achieved but she has also gone one step beyond, especially with regards to her joining the QPR U16s squad. When remembering those early concerns that her mother had, of being isolated and disengaged with extra-curricular activities, these results have been amazing.

together, every child and young person can flourish.