Philip came to us at 13 years old.
He had multiple failed foster placements before coming to Avocet House. He was also out of education having been effectively excluded from school. He hadn’t seen his mother for over six years. What was clear from the admission process was that Philip would have been placed at Avocet House without the involvement of his mother. We drove that aspect of the process and insisted, despite reservations on the part of the social worker, that we engaged with mother prior to Philip’s admission. In doing this we found mum to be supportive of Avocet House, the proposed placement, and supportive of a gradual reunification and contact with Philip. This has been an underpinning and key strand in our work with Philip.
Over time Philip’s bespoke therapy sessions progressed to joint work alongside his mother and key staff at Avocet House in particular, exploring life story work. This has taken many forms from visits to previous schools and foster settings as well as a look back in paper work around circumstances around the death of his father.
Philip has engaged in a whole range of diverse learning opportunities across the 24hr curriculum. He has sat a range of GCSE’s a year ahead of schedule and has already gained a range of accreditation in various areas.
- Food Life Skills Certificate
- ASDAN Bronze Award
- Maths Entry Level 3
- CLAIT – E-document production
- Adult Literacy L2
- GCSE Maths – D
- GCSE English – E
- GCSE Science – E
- BTEC Home Cooking L2
- Arts Award Bronze
- Money and Finance L2
- Climbing L1 and L2
- First Aid in the Workplace
- L2 Award in Swimming Pool Water Treatment
- RYA Competent Crew Award
- EL3 Award in Skills Towards Enabling Progression (Step Up)
- BTEC Vocational Skills L1
- BTEC Diploma in Sports L2 (still being studied)
Philip was one of six people nationally to be selected for “The Hottest Classroom on Earth”, a national competition in which he travelled to Africa and walked the Great Rift Valley lead by Massai warriors. The nine day expedition took place in June 2012 and was the subject of a BBC documentary, “The Hottest Classroom On Earth”. Philip’s original “Hottest Classroom” application letter (reproduced below) is a good illustrative summary in his own words of many of his achievements.
“My name is Philip and I am 15 years old. I have been in care since the age of two. Since then I have lived in 34 different foster placements, before moving to Avocet House 2 years ago. I got to the stage where I felt there was no point unpacking my belongings any more. It’s been hard adjusting to living in a care home with other boys who have difficulties, which I sometimes find hard to deal with as I’m used to living in a family environment. I have had to learn to be more tolerant of others whilst dealing with my own personal issues through life story work.
I am a person that likes challenges and setting myself goals that I strive to reach and complete. I have proven from past experiences and opportunities that I always stick at things and don’t give up easily. I am always open to trying new things, I can be a strong leader but I also listen to others opinions and like to support peers. I am more than capable of looking after myself, doing my own laundry and I have excellent cooking skills. I am also very organised and like to take personal responsibility for my own possessions and equipment, I demonstrated this on our Hadrian’s Wall expedition. For this expedition I had to prepare and pack my own equipment and carry it all at times throughout the 7 day walk, this included camping and cooking equipment. This was a great experience because I love to be outside and never found myself getting bored. I enjoyed the challenge of the endurance walk, knowing I had to complete so many miles each day before setting up camp. I have been complimented by many adults at Avocet House as being polite, well mannered and with a friendly manner. I hope I am a good ambassador for Avocet House.
I consider myself to be very lucky with the opportunities I’ve been given at Avocet House. I have been an eager and willing participant in several residential ventures including the Hadrian’s Wall walk which was totally self-sufficient, a Wye valley canoe expedition with car support and a weekend bush craft fair. These type of activities are so important to me that I nominated myself to be a member on our OAA committee, which I have now been part of for the last year. I am happiest when I am doing something or have something to work towards, I totally threw myself into training for the Whole Hog Run, working up to eight mile runs 4-5 times a week. Fitness is really important to me, both gym and endurance fitness, I work hard to improve my level of fitness all the time. I consider myself to be an all round good sportsman and enjoy coaching others, especially in my area of expertise, which is cricket. I would love the opportunity to share some of my skills with new people from a different culture, I think they would love some of my slight of hand magic tricks.
I would really like to be part of the Hottest Classroom expedition because I think it would be a totally life changing experience. I believe having completed such a challenge I would come back a better person, mentally stronger, with more skills and a better understanding of different cultures. I think seeing how the Massai people live a more simple life with fewer processions could change my views and values about what is really important in life and also make me appreciate what I have rather than what I don’t have. I have also been recently studying about tectonic plates in science and the Great Rift Valley would be a great place to see an example of these geological features.
Lastly I think it would be a huge personal challenge for me to walk double the distance I have walked in this country and under much more challenging weather conditions.”
Philip’s application illustrates and captures a great deal of the sophisticated blend of 24hr learning, care and therapy that Avocet sets out to achieve. It reflects a growing portfolio of achievement and success, which formed the basis for his selection to go to Africa. The expedition had a profound effect upon Philip ‘cementing’ so much of the good work and progress, as well having an impact in the very way Philip predicted in his application.
Since returning from Africa he has completed a Tall ships sailing voyage across the North Sea to the continent, from which he gained a Competent Crewman Certificate. He’s met and sailed with Sarah Outen the round the world sailor and explorer. His Curriculum Vitae combined with his manner and approach during a days work experience in the restaurant of the Automobile Association Club in London, alongside the executive chef, amazingly resulted in an offer of employment.
Much of his studies are self-driven and although accredited work continues in core subjects his personalised timetable reflects a diverse range of different learning experiences. He been restoring a car, building his own Canadian Canoe, learning Mandarin, studying BTECs as well as a day release at College.
Such has been the progress that Philip has gradually been spending more time across weekends and holidays at home with his mum and brothers to the point where full reunification and move to where his mum lives, attending a local college at post 16, is now an option. Equally, Philip is balancing that against the roots and contacts he has in Norfolk and an aspiration to live independently in the local area. Such is his maturity, focus and progress through the rigorous internally accredited Avocet Life Skills Scheme that living independently with outreach support before he is 18 years of age is a possibility. We are working closely with the placing authority in looking at this brave and innovative possibility.
Philip successfully completed of life skills award scheme, which has bronze, silver and gold awards across the following five areas:
- Home Management
- Social Skills
- Self Care, Health and Food
He has now learned to drive, passing his test first time, and is running his own small car.
He was elected class representative on his college course
He has presented as main speaker to a National Conference of leaders of BESD schools, describing his journey so far. The conference evaluation feedback asked for feedback on attendee’s high points:
- Philip’s journey at Avocet House – a real inspiration to keep doing my job
- The inspirational, motivational, most preciously beautiful speech from Philip and Michael
- Philip and Michael – the combination of keyworker and young person was superb, need to build on this!
- Philip and Michael – truly humbling, what else is there to say!
He gave the same presentation to the Norfolk Network of business people, which resulted in him being spontaneously given a job offer
He has currently been chosen for a National Award for Personal Progress.
He is about to move into independent living in a small flat of his own.