The Alternative Learning Hub, or ALH, is a place where young people who find traditional school too challenging meet adults who understand them.

Jonathan Wood, one of the ALH’s coaches, explains in more detail what the Hub does and how it helps young people when other methods have failed in the past.

“Myself and the practitioners here at the ALH are known for getting results from young people when others can’t.

“We come from mainstream schools and colleges, where we saw how young people didn’t fit into a system. This saw them lashing out against adults who they thought weren’t listening to them.

“We wanted to force change by creating a system which adapts to them so they could start taking small steps which, with support, turn into strides because the system keeps adapting to push them just hard enough.

“Without a different approach for these young people there are real risks that they will find themselves excluded and cast aside from a system which never really gave them a chance.

“The consequence for those young people is all too often a life of poor relationships, financial stress and real consequences of harm because their opportunities to learn how to socialise with their peers were taken away.

“Every young person deserves a chance because they all have potential, and it is our job as coaches to help them realise that potential. This is not an easy journey, it is full of challenges, high pressure moments and hair pulling frustrations. At the end, when the dust has settled, lives are changed.

“On paper, we may not look any different. We have Maths and English lessons, classrooms and rules, but read between the lines and you will see a completely different approach.

“Front and centre of our curriculum is the young person’s needs. We start with what they want to get better at, instead of where they currently are.

“The coaches here give learners space and time when things aren’t going well so they realise that they are heard their feelings are validated and they can develop a sense of worth. We are non-confrontational.

“The learners here don’t need sanctions and we encourage them to take opportunities to build relationships.

“We don’t have so many rules that they confuse the coaches and baffle the students. When it goes wrong (which it does plenty) we use it as an opportunity to help students learn how to do it better next time with conversations and emotional development.

“Lessons move fast or slow, sometimes both at the same time. This is because we have enough coaches to give one on one support where it is needed and the space for the learner to work on their own when the group is too much.

“We encourage working together when there are difficulties, instead of expecting the adults to work it out. Together, we teach the learners that talking it out is the best way forward and then we learn to interact with each other’s worlds.”

Photo credit: Anthony Brown