'A real heart to see children’s lives transformed'
The TLG Bolton Education Centre, run in partnership with Farnworth Baptist Church, seeks to support children struggling on the fringes of education across the town. By Beth Prescott
Bolton. The UK’s biggest town, a historic football club and a former hub for textile production.
Bolton was recently ranked in the top 15 per cent of deprived areas in the 2019 indices of deprivation. Over a third of children across Bolton are living in poverty, rising to more than half in some areas of the town.
Six years ago, in the heart of this northern town, a church decided it wanted to be part of the answer to the children struggling on the fringes of education. It decided to open an alternative provision with a difference.
The TLG Bolton Education Centre, one of 12 across the UK, is run in partnership with Farnworth Baptist Church and national children’s charity Transforming Lives for Good (TLG).
TLG Education Centres help local churches across the country to work with disadvantaged and excluded young people who are at crisis point.
The centres work with the school, family and social services (where necessary) to provide the best care for each individual. They support between six and 12 young people who would otherwise miss out on their education and have a high staff to pupil ratio, enabling the young people to receive the crucial one-to-one support they need.
TLG Bolton started as a result of John, the church leader, hearing then TLG Director Mike Royal speak about TLG and Education Centres. John had previously been a teacher and involved in Alternative Provision projects. As TLG has an overt Christian ethos there was a natural link with him now being a church leader. John was keen to establish a centre because he saw a lack of aspiration from young people in the Farnworth area.
Susie McGibbon was the Head Teacher from 2017-2019, recently moving into a new role with TLG. Susie previously worked as a primary school teacher when she felt called to work with children on the fringes of education. She worked for a number of years with children with special educational needs before moving on to join the TLG team.
In her two years at the Education Centre, Susie has already seen many children’s lives transformed. She says, ‘Working in an education centre is an honour and privilege. Although days can be challenging and hard, seeing the steps of progress, however big or small over weeks and months, is always a great celebration.
'When we give the centre to God each day, we watch His hand guide, protect and give strength.’
One particular student arrived at the Education Centre for Key Stage Four. This student had really struggled with mainstream school and lacked a lot of confidence. Through the centre’s holistic approach, she was able to thrive in the Centre’s environment and left the Centre complete with qualifications and headed for college.
However, it wasn’t just her education though that benefited. Previously this same student had struggled with confidence and had a dislike of being around large crowds. By the end of her time at TLG she decided to go on one of our residentials – something she simply would not have done previously – and she loved it. Her life had been completely transformed through attending the TLG Bolton Education Centre.
This child’s life is one of many being changed by TLG Education Centres across the UK. TLG also runs other initiatives to meet the needs of children struggling with poverty, hunger, relational trauma and other complex issues across the UK. This may be through a volunteer coach offering one to one help as a mentor through TLG Early Intervention or providing food to families who would otherwise go hungry during the holidays through TLG Make Lunch. In total, TLG partners with 220 churches helping 5000 people each year.
The key to the success of TLG’s Education Centre programme is going beyond simply education and supporting the wider needs of the young person. The centres focus both on formal education and on giving the students the skills they need to navigate through life, such as conflict resolution and how to make positive choices. The team at the TLG Education Centre in Bolton have had a great deal of success, especially in relation to the Centre’s work with children and their educational and pastoral outcomes.
Both Susie and John have not just noticed the impact on the children, but the impact on the church too. At one point, the centre was struggling for referrals and urgently needed new students. In response, the church gathered together in one of the biggest prayer meetings to happen at that church. The outpouring of support from the church soon led to a breakthrough of referrals, which the whole church was able to celebrate together.
Gareth Crossley recently started as TLG Bolton’s new Head Teacher, succeeding Susie. Gareth has a real heart to see children’s lives transformed and is already excited to get into his new role.
‘It has been exciting to see Farnworth Baptist Church demonstrate effective, long-standing commitment to families and young people in their local area. By partnering with TLG they really are transforming young people’s lives for good and in turn impacting whole families.
'I’m very much looking forward to fulfilling more of my own calling as I’m able to provide front-line help to struggling young people by offering stability and high standards of teaching to those for whom education has been something of a bumpy road.’
Image | TLG Farnworth
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Beth Prescott is TLG press officer and policy lead