Surf to Success Ecominds Project and Film

A unique pioneering Intervention and Transition Programme which is changing the lives of chronically disadvantaged youngsters.

Excluded Youngsters Surfing their way to Success

GB Boardriders CIC and Global Boarders Ltd in collaboration with Ecominds, University of Plymouth, Penwith, Kerrier and  Carrick Short Stay Schools, Hayle Community School and Cornwall Marine Network

An ambitious, pioneering surfing Intervention project is turning the lives of chronically disadvantaged young people around and potentially reducing the UK prison population by fully addressing the triple bottom line of Social, Economic and Environmental responsibility.

GB Boardriders CIC, has devised and delivered an academically evaluated 12 week structured surfing intervention programme for 12 to 16 year-olds from Cornish Short Stay Schools [schools which children excluded from mainstream education attend] and a control group from a Community School. The Surf to Success surfing programme, part funded by GB Boardriders CIC and the European Social Fund via Cornwall Marine Nework, is delivered by highly skilled Surf Coaches and includes progressive surf lessons, coaching and mentoring and environmental awareness and sustainability components.

The programme is the culmination of 3 years successful pilot work between GB Boardriders CIC and the Short Stay Schools. Sarah Van Horn, Head of the Penwith School in Penzance, says “This project has successfully engaged some of our most challenging young people who have not only learned to surf and engage with their local marine environment but gain valuable life skills which have assisted their social re-integration, improved their attendance at school and revived their interest in their future via qualifications and employment. Two example case studies illustrate that the work experience opportunities provided as part of the Surf to Success programme have led to successful qualifications and meaningful employment for two of our most vulnerable students – one now a qualified lifeguard and the other a soldier, positions of responsibility to which they would never have aspired prior to the programme.”

In 2010 the performance and well-being of 25 young people before and after the programme was measured by Plymouth University and the results speak for themselves. Dr. Mat White, Dr. Sabine Pahl and MSc Student Simon Coley led the evaluation and summarised that “Most strikingly, after the surf programme, children had higher overall well-being than before, across aspects such as family, school work, friends and appearance.* Overall, participants during the follow-up sessions commented how they had made new friends and became better at team work including helping and listening to others. Many had observed the stress relieving effects of surfing. Again, most of these effects were observed in both school types although improvements in some individuals were more dramatic in the Short Stay Schools.”

The point of early Intervention is to catch children who are in danger of becoming NEETs [Not in Employment, Education or Training] and it is worth noting that if not identified and helped, prison may well be a route for some of these children. Of the 2008 Young Offender population 3 out of 4 had been excluded from school at some time in their lives; there was a £298 million annual spend on Youth Custody and £36 million on Prevention Programmes by the Youth Justice Board and a gradual rise in the number of young people entering prison. Now in 2011, 1 in 5 young people between 16 and 24 years are unemployed, the highest ever recorded figure. It would seem that conventional Youth Intervention is not only seemingly ineffective but costly: the average annual cost of keeping one young person in a Short Stay School is up to 5 times that of mainstream education; The annual costs allocated by the Youth Justice Board to 15 Young Offenders Institutions run by HM Prison Service averaged £59,172 per place, while those for four SecureTraining Centres were equivalent to £176,080 per place, and those for 14 local authority Secure Children’s Homes averaged £215,596 per place. On the basis that about a fifth of individuals arrested and proceeded against are under 18, the Commission has calculated that the annual costs of policing and criminal justice services attributable to dealing with young offenders may be as much as £4 billion.

Mod Le Froy, ex-Director of Global Boarders Ltd and Director of GB Boardriders CIC states “We were shocked when we researched these figures which are unacceptable and obviously unsustainable. Our results clearly show how a creative, collaborative approach can transform the lives of young people and, with the correct blend of expertise and a carefully constructed, professionally delivered medium term Intervention programme, the fiscal knock-on effect of a project like this could save the government a huge amount of money whilst at same time reducing crime rates, improving the life of citizens and providing quality employment and transferable vocational skills.”

These type of potential massive savings have also caught the attention of Dr. Harold Goodwin, Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism and Chair of the Responsible Tourism Awards, at which in 2010 Global Boarders were listed for 2 awards. Harold comments “Global Boarders have shown outstanding leadership and social responsibility in the work they have chosen to do with disadvantaged and disaffected youth and have achieved remarkable success. They are an example to us all.” As a result Mod was invited as a keynote speaker on Social Responsibility at the globally attended World Travel Market 2010 and this year has been asked to talk about Surf to Success in Europe and Africa.

With the help of the pilot studies and further funding via Cornwall Marine Network, GB Boardriders and the Plymouth Uni Team has won funding from Ecominds to deliver and evaluate further Surf to Success programmes adding two more big Cornish secondary schools, Pool and Humphry Davy, thereby reaching more children. Jenny O’Doherty of Ecominds says, “We are really excited to be involved with this innovative project. Ecominds is a £7.5 million funding scheme run by Mind on behalf of the BIG Lottery Fund. Ecominds involves people with direct experience of mental distress in environmental projects that improve their mental and physical health, and local communities.”

Further plans also include Surf to Success Transition Programmes which will involve mobilising young people of school leaving age into further education and meaningful employment whilst collaborating with local businesses helping them to improve the well being of their employees and address their Corporate Social Responsibilty.

Mod summarises “Social responsibility, as part of a sustainable strategy, isn’t that hard for us all to address as our small part of the Big Society: for our Team it’s all about identifying the key issues, creatively joining up the dots and closing the loop in a fun and economically viable way”.

* The interviews were analysed in terms of engagement with the interviewer (which was a problem particularly in the Short Stay School pupils) and facial expressions when they talked about different activities. In line with the self-report questionnaires, these direct observations also showed an increase in positive affect and decrease in negative affect over time. Surfing triggered more positive affect than other activities the children engaged in, but also slightly more negative affect. This suggests that surfing was perceived not just as a fun activity but also as a challenge. The positive changes were the same for children who went to the Short Stay Schools as they were for those who went to the Community School but the Short Stay School pupils had overall lower well-being.

This was only a pilot study exploring the benefits of the Surf to Success programme. Given the small numbers and limited resources, the positive findings are impressive and suggest a considerable increase in well-being in the participants, in both self-report and observation measures. Additional improvements in social and other transferable skills were also reported but need validating in a larger sample and through independent observers.

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