Ever wondered what it's like to...help children be better citizens?

David Foster teaches children about citizenship

David Foster teaches children about citizenship

First published in Business: Odd Jobs The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Business Editor

Business isn't always about boardrooms, briefings and black coffee. So, in tribute to the North-East men and women who take a more unusual approach to enterprise, this week, Deputy Business Editor Lauren Pyrah takes a look at the unconventional, alternative or down right difficult careers in the region's economy. This week she speaks to David Foster, 48, who works for Fabrick Housing as a Peer Kids programme co-ordinator.

Tell us a little about what your job involves

I run a project working with Year Six pupils, who are in their final year at primary school and are aged ten and 11, from schools across Middlesbrough, which helps teach them about citizenship and being good members of the community.

We cover racism, bullying, and anti-social behaviour. It is about making kids understand how their actions can affect the community.

I go into schools over a ten to 12-week period to deliver the course.

We try to do it in a fun way, with lots of group work, art work, role play, games and DVDs.

Part of the course is to get children to make a promise on something they can do which will improve their estate in the future.

We have an assembly at the end of the course, where they all perform something they have written about what they have learned, and they are presented with their certificates as well as their laminated promise.

The promise is really effective, as it is something they come up with themselves, rather than something they are told to do.

How did the project get started?

It started about ten years ago, when I was working as a housing officer. The level of anti-social behaviour on some of the housing estates was something we wanted to address, and because I have a background as a youth worker, I was a good fit.

We asked if we could go into some of the schools. We started with one school, and it was so successful, the other schools approached us.

We successfully applied for funding from the Middlesbrough Children's Fund, and set it up as a full time project, rolling it out across more schools.

When the funding ran out, Fabrick Housing said they would contiue to pay for it because there was evidence the programme was working - they were getting fewer complaints about anti-social behaviour and a higher level of satisfaction from residents on the estates the project covered.

What sort of activities do you organise to keep the children interested?

We try to make it fun. We do a lot of group work, where we get them to think about their estate and what they like about it and what they don't like as much.

We do a show-and-tell exercise about the area, and play lots of games where you are penalised if your don't stick to the rules. This shows them the importance of rules. We link this to the law and what can happen outside if you break the law when you are more than ten-years-old, which is the criminal age of responsibility.

We do sessions on anti-social behaviour, where we do a bit of role-playing and get the kids to act in an anti-social way in different situations, then discuss the impact this would have on residents and shopkeepers.

We also get police officers and wardens involved in some of the activities, as well as the fire brigade.

Are there any similar projects to this one in other areas of the UK?

Sunderland run a project called Community Kids, which is what inspired our project, but we run ours very differently and completely independently of that.

I think what we do is quite unique.

We have even had other housing associations approach us about the course. We sold a franchise to Bernicia, one of the housing associations in Northumberland, which I supervise to make sure it's being delivered properly.

We also run the course at a school in Darlington and Redcar.

What's the best bit about the job?

It is seeing kids being kids. We cover serious subjects but in such a fun way they get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Seeing that pride in themselves at the end of the course is just brilliant.

I've been doing this for about ten years now, and it's lovely when you see some of the kids who were on the course about eight or nine years ago, who are now 18 or 19. The thing they always seem to remember is the laminated promise, which is great. Some of them tell me they still have it.

Anything you don't like?

Honestly, no, other than the paperwork. I absolutely love it - my bosses know I would do it for nothing.

You do get the odd bad kid, but 99.9 per cent of them are absolutely fantastic and more than make up for a few bad bits.

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