1. ITV Report

Church school a godsend for excluded pupils

The church school proving to be a godsend for troubled kids Photo:

Youngsters in Essex who are too disruptive for normal school lessons are taking advantage of a last chance to avoid permanent exclusion.

Frinton Free Church in Frinton on Sea has set up its own school and says it's filling a gap for students who've been branded 'unteachable'.

It's partnered with the national charity TLG or Transforming Lives for Good and has a small staff of teachers and volunteers who tailor lessons to the needs of each young person.

Ben Massey: We're taking on seven students a day

Back in September last year we opened a school here for young people at risk from exclusion from two local senior schools. We are taking on seven students a day and we are trying to help them engage with school and engage with learning, trying to address things with their behaviour

– Mark Massey, Senior Minister, Frinton Free Church

Staff say transforming the student's lives isn't always easy and they won't always succeed, but already a number of students have been able to resume lessons in a main steam school.

Ben Pratt: We help the students cope

They come to us and they can kind of bring their issues with them and then we give them strategies to be able to take back in to their mainstream setting. In terms of the curriculum we teach a very different curriculum to a mainstream setting - we still do English and Maths, all of the usual subjects because we are an independent school and we have to do that... but we teach through project work so it's not stand alone lessons and we find actually that the students engage really well with that.

– Ben Pratt, Headteacher, TLG Tendring

But should the church have to step to provide this kind of facility? Isn't it the job of the local authority?

We don't want to run a project like this and we don't want the students who are with us to stay for too long. We want them to return to mainstream but there's a gap at the moment and we are seeing that in so many areas of society where gaps are due to budgets and other things and for us to be able to fill a gap at this time and to say that as a church we can make a difference is huge

– Mark Massey, Senior Minister, Frinton Free Church
Jessica: one of the students

Jessica Guest is one student who has been attending the school. She told ITV about her previous behaviour " I wouldn't want to talk to anyone, and when they told me to do something I'd take it out on other people" But thanks to the help she's received at Frinton Free Church her situation has changed dramatically.

It does help you change the way you are. They can't physically change the way you are, you have to want to do it. You have to want to change your life around to be you, which I wanted so I've taken it and I see myself doing well

– Jessica Guest, student
It's been a Godsend

It's been a godsend for me and her Mum because we have been crying out for years to get Jess the help but nothing has been forthcoming. Ben and the team here took her in and so now Jess can evaluate a situation. If someone is aggressively arguing with Jess, Jess can now go 'whatever' and just walk away.

– Paul Guest, Jessica's Dad

The church school may be small but it's still run like any other, including being subject to OFSTED inspections.

Staff are christian but they welcome youngsters from all backgrounds, believers or not.

Though maybe thats not strictly true. because self belief is very much encouraged... as is showing students they have the power to transform their futures - if they really want to.