VIDEO: Pioneering project to help children aim higher

Youngsters who have recently graduated from the CHOICE programme.
Youngsters who have recently graduated from the CHOICE programme.

A scheme which has given Pontefract children a first-hand insight into life in the police and fire services to help them aim higher, is to spread across the Wakefield.

CHOICE (Children Have Options Imagination Challenge Experience) programme is now set to be rolled out across Wakefield district after its success in the Pontefract, Knottingley and South East areas.

Visits to police stations and courts, opportunities to wield fire hoses and perform a fire drill, and learn about health have all be on the cards for youngsters who have recently graduated from the South East based CHOICE programme.

The 30 week course began in October 2015 for children aged nine-11 in schools across Pontefract and was intended to give a helping hand to pupils who were in need of an extra goal.

It is aimed at increasing school attendance and attainment by giving young people first-hand experience of potential career choices in the emergency services, together with information about health and other cultures.

Over the course of the programme, children were able to visit police stations and courts, and receive inputs about cyber safety, stranger dangers, the consequences of becoming involved in crime, and possible careers in policing.

They also spent time in fire stations where they were able to use fire hoses and ladders, perform a fire drill, access the smoke house and receive advice about fire safety about the impact of hoax calls.

Other programmes included a Focus and Breath Believe course about anger management and NHS inputs about healthy lifestyles.

The course itself was supported by agencies including West Yorkshire Police, Pontefract Academies and Education Trust, Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, Wakefield District Housing ,West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, and Casey’s Construction

Guest speakers came in from West Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Fire Service, WDH, Wakefield Youth Offending Team, the Magistrates Court, British Transport Police, Barnardos, Holistic Therapist, Wakefield College, and School Nursing.

PC Charlie Banks of Wakefield District Police, who has spearheaded the programme, said: “The point of CHOICE has been to help children who are basically good but who have not for some reason, whether it be lack of confidence or minor behavioural issues, quite achieved their potential.

“Our aim has been to shave off those corners which have been holding them back, to help them move along.”

He added: “Everyone involved in CHOICE has been really pleased with the success it has had and we are all pleased to see something which works, spread out to help other young people in the wider Wakefield District.

“The kids who I have seen and continue to work with in Knottingley have shown some great progress. I say to one or two, ‘when you compare where you are now to where you were two years ago before we started the programme, the change is amazing.’

“When you look at their behaviour and attitude, sometimes it can be truly remarkable the difference this course can make to some people.”

Annette Jones, Choice District Manager, said: “I am very proud of all the children involved and take great pleasure in witnessing the sense of achievement that is displayed by all. This year has seen two areas merge together for the end celebratory event held at Wakefield College (Skills Exchange Castleford) on July 8.

“Friendships have been formed between children from 11 Primary schools and the parental engagement in the programme has been superb and continues to develop with some parents volunteering.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, said: “Supporting young people is crucial and it’s very important to inspire them to reach their full potential. I was able to visit some of the young people taking part in the CHOICE programme and it was clear to see how valuable the programme is.

“This is a fantastic project and I was pleased to be able to provide some funding through my Safer Communities Fund. Being able to return cash seized from criminals back into our communities into such worthwhile projects is one of the best parts of my role.”