Just like every part of life this last nine months or so, Covid restrictions have affected the Trust's ability to run programmes in the normal way. Even when the current National Youth Agency restrictions were Amber which meant we could run programmes face to face for groups of up to 15 people, it was still proving difficult to run these programmes in some places.

Understandably some young people and their families were nervous about mixing in groups, some venues that we used previously were not available and some partners had staff on furlough or unavailable to work with us. The ability to deliver our programmes virtually which we trialled over the summer really come into its own as a delivery method when the country entered a second lockdown.

In the last week of November and in early December we were delivering an average of 11 programmes virtually with around 100 young people attending each week. Offering programmes virtually offered much needed support to these young people and feedback from participants has been really encouraging:

Thank you very much for letting me have the opportunity to come onto the programme, I’m very excited to see what happens as we go along. I’ve felt a lot better in myself for being able to talk to new people and have a fun time as well as learning. I’m enjoying every part of it so far and am looking forward to seeing what’s next!

Participant on virtual Get on Track programme in the South East. 

All our programmes are run in partnership with local providers who understand the needs of the local communities and often work closely with young people over a longer period of time. Ben & Gabs from Swale Leisure had this to say about the virtual programmes:

I think it's allowed those who wouldn't normally engage in a face to face programme to now engage.  One of the young people in the group said she wouldn't have been able to attend if it wasn't delivered virtually.  I would say it has meant we have a much broader group in terms of needs and differing abilities which is good as it allows the group to think about adaptations of activities and learn more skills around being considerate etc. I also think it makes the whole group mix more as they can’t go off and just talk to or socialise with those they get on best with - as would happen normally - they don’t have a choice when everyone is on a call together! Virtual sessions are also shorter but more regular which the young people seem to be appreciating. If they have other commitments or interviews for jobs, they can fit these round the 90 minute sessions usually, rather than having to miss a whole day. 

Of course the type of delivery we have had to do has changed as the way we deliver our programmes has evolved. All of our programmes are led by world class athletes and the way they have adapted the way they work with their groups has been amazing to see over the last nine months. Used to delivering in person, they have all adapted to virtual delivery via Zoom or conference call and using new techniques, methods and tools, have continued to deliver an outstanding mentoring experience to their groups. Inline skating cha,pion Jenna Downing talks through one techique she uses:

The Shield

"The Shield is a self reflection tool to encourage the young people to reflect on their lives, including their past and present, but also to look to their futures and what this might look like. It encourages them to think about their strengths as individuals and what goals they have moving forward. Finally, we ask the young people to write down an inspirational quote in the scroll and the young people then present this back to the group if they're comfortable with that.

This process helps develops communication and presentation skills which we link in with job interview situations and how you have to sell yourself and talk about your skills and interests." 

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As we enter tougher restrictions in 2021, our ability to offer virtual delivery across all our programmes will allow us to continue to support as many young people as possible. As well as adapting our Get on Track programme, we can start our AQA Unlocking Potential programme in January 2021 in schools and colleges knowing that we can flex back to face to face delivery as and when the situation allows.