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The Archway Project in Bexley is going full throttle for young people

PUBLISHED: 12:04 03 October 2012

Pupil Ian Nicholson

Pupil Ian Nicholson

Archant

Just over a year since the London riots shocked the area youth scheme The Archway Project is ensuring the next generation have a future to build on.

Back l-r: Paul Watt, George Lorraine, John Milton, Tay Goedie, Ryan Argent and Adam Robinson. Front: Ian Nicholson and Jamie CousinsBack l-r: Paul Watt, George Lorraine, John Milton, Tay Goedie, Ryan Argent and Adam Robinson. Front: Ian Nicholson and Jamie Cousins

The scheme, financed by Trust Thamesmead and Bexley Council, was established in 1982, but moved into new premises last month to raise capacity from 12 to 24 young people aged 11 to 19.

Archway teaches youths how to fix motorbikes. The reason for this is very simple – in the early 1980s local residents said they were worried about youths hanging around on the streets.

Youth workers asked the teens what they wanted to do and were told many were interested in bikes. And so it began.

Project director John MiltonProject director John Milton

Project director John Milton said: “Since the riots we’ve focused on getting the kids into work. It’s very fulfilling and gives great satisfaction. That keeps staff here.

“Working here can be quite a challenge. Some of the kids go to school and some don’t but we try and work on the maths and English side of education as well as the practical and technical stuff.

“Kids find it hard to understand that maths and English will be important to get into work so we try and fit it into their learning in a way that will keep them interested.”

The 59-year-old has been with Archway for five years, having previously worked with the Youth Justice Board and the Prison Service.

Working on projectsWorking on projects

The project, in Belvedere Road just under the flyover into Thamesmead, is staffed by five full-time, two part-time and three occasional staff members, all of who are former students.

“It’s easier for the current kids to relate to people who have been in their situation. That’s the idea of getting former pupils into work here, to give the kids something to aim for,” John explains.

Former pupil George Lorraine, 20, is an example. “I didn’t see myself working here but it’s been great for my life. There’s a good relationship with the staff and everyone feels comfortable. I started coming originally because I liked bikes but I genuinely started to become interested in how to fix them,” he said.

As well as teaching mechanics, the project has strong relationships with two employers – London City Airport and the army – which pupils have gone on to work for. In 2008 Archway received an award from the council for being the best organisation nationally for reducing juvenile crime.

Jamie Cousins, 15, said: “I enjoy it more than school and it’s always very warm and welcoming. This is a good opportunity for young people.”

John says the team behind the project will continue to keep up the good work in keeping kids off the streets and out of trouble.

“No one who is or was involved with us played any part in the riots and the fact that no names came back is testament to the work we do.”

For more information visit www.archwayproject.org.

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