In this blog Laverne Antrobus, Child Psychologist speaks of her excitement about the Level Up: Safe steps to secondary school programme, which went live two weeks ago. Although Laverne may be best known for her television and radio work, such as the BAFTA nominated ‘Little Angels’ and Channel 4’s ‘Secret Lives’ programmes, she has a strong clinical background that has included working with children and young people with complex social, emotional and behavioural problems. With such a combination of charisma and experience there could be no one better to front an innovative programme to support and change the lives of our young people for the better.

Level Up!

The scary facts are that youth crime and violence has more than doubled in London over the last five years. Whilst I don’t expect the children/young people in the Level Up programme to be directly involved in youth crime or violence, I want the children we work with to be as equipped as they can be to navigate difficult or dangerous situations and anticipate and be aware of risks before they arise. For instance, being mindful of where they are walking and where they sit on the bus are just two such examples parents have shared with me over the years.

I’m aware that the move from primary to secondary school is unsettling for most children, particularly as they are moving from a familiar environment with familiar faces to a new building with lots of new people. I also know that the summer holiday period is a time where children have less structure and security and parents can feel unsupported. With this in mind, it’s no surprise then that in primary school you see a lot of bright, happy, cheeky children, but by their mid-teens some children become viewed differently. They can become marginalised, identified as problematic or even as a threat.

For many years I worked at Gloucester House helping young people that had been excluded from school. It was hard work and presented many challenges, however by providing targeted support for their emotional and cognitive development, we were often successful in helping many of them to return to the right school for them.

We all know that in the real world, children/young people can sometimes find themselves in difficult situations. But with the right skills they can make informed choices, cope with challenges and avoid dangerous situations.

Now with the Level Up programme, I see the opportunity to intervene in young lives before things get anywhere near these points. Level Up: Safe steps to secondary school, is a brand new online programme working with Year 6 children in Camden, Islington and Haringey.  Working with the creative agency, Collective London we have designed and developed a platform that will provide an interactive journey from the last term of primary school, through the summer holidays and into the first term of secondary school. The programme aims to build on a child’s strengths, develop their communication and coping skills, promote positive attachments and reduce risky behaviours by further developing their thinking and decision making skills.

Who we are?

The Level Up team is drawn from staff working at the Tavistock Clinic, an organisation with an international reputation for expertise in child development and working with adolescents. I feel proud to be bringing this expertise to bear in local communities.

Our work focuses on

Children at risk of having a difficult move to secondary school and who:

  • struggle with peer relationships 
  • have difficulty managing their emotional state
  • are easily influenced by others
  • make risky and/or poor decisions
  • are driven by gaining peer approval

Using online activities and remote group-work, we are giving children and their parents a space to discuss their worries whilst holding on to hope. There is a focus on developing and building the skills needed to think independently and navigate difficulties at school, home and the wider community. Parents are also supported through informative podcasts and remote group sessions with other parents from the community. In this way we aim to help the young people and their parents feel better equipped to navigate the difficulties of everyday life.

Growing up from being a child to becoming a young adult, is one of the most amazing stages in our lives. We start to see the world and people in new ways. We want to make our own decisions, we expect independence, we may take risks. Thinking independently allows a person to make informed decisions, but it takes time and practice to cultivate the skill. Involvement in the Level Up programme is one step in preparing children for living safely in the modern world.