The old African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ recognises the need for community involvement in the development of its young people. One might say a ‘family’ of people. At Oasis, we believe wholly that young people not only need, but deserve to have, a wide network, a family of peers, parents and role models, in order to thrive and flourish.
So what do we actually do to ensure this happens? Let me introduce you to the Oasis Hub model. Each of our Academies across the UK are part of a community Hub, created and tailored especially for that community to suit the needs of its members – young or old. This might include running educational workshops, craft sessions, food banks, debt advice, churches or cafes to name some programmes. It is part of our inclusive ethos and vision to enable each of our communities to reach their potential.
We caught up with some of our community workers within the Waterloo Hub to get a better understanding of what impact the Hub model can have on the lives of our young people when working with our Academies. In a world where every child has unique aspirations, circumstances, backgrounds and needs, we asked: what can we do to ensure we are putting our vision into action?
In conversation with our Hub workers it became clear that there’s one thing that the Hub model can do that school can’t do for students. No matter how much students like going to school – and in Oasis we really hope this is true for all our students – it is a must in a student’s life; it’s not voluntary and there are clear expectations. However, getting involved with a project outside of school, in community, is something a student does because he or she wants to do it. Being involved voluntarily with adult youth and other community workers gives a young person another adult to engage with, to look to as a role model, to get support from and to learn from. You might say this sounds like a teacher/student relationship, which is possible, but it is fundamentally different because the young person has chosen to get involved. We have discovered that having opportunities like this can make all the difference to a student’s experience of school. Our young people need allies. An ally without the authority of a parent or a teacher, but with the wisdom and knowledge to understand what’s important about life, and that adaptation rather than adoption of experiences and lessons learned is vital.
Through the engagement and encouragement of whole friendship groups, parents and Academy staff, our Hub workers are helping build up confidence and open up opportunities for those who might have otherwise felt lost, and don’t want to go-it-alone. In the last year Oasis Hub Waterloo has offered workshops and classes for children including PHSE soft skills, managing emotions, life skills alongside experiences such as family dining, special interest clubs and sports teams. Alongside our teachers, they offer support with resource creation, lesson planning and individual student support. And with parents and carers, weekly coffee mornings, informal meetings, signposting, community cohesion events and adult education classes.
This is not to say that challenges are not faced. Operating the hub model can be very demanding. Mixing community work with running a school requires a lot of commitment to good communication and sometimes to different ways of working for all the participants.
But with perseverance and determination we continue to work together to overcome these challenges and to demonstrate the positive impact the Hub model can have by moving work out of its normal silos and into an integrated environment.
Life is much easier when you don’t have to work with others but it’s much richer for all if you can.