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Serious Youth Violence

My Life My Choice
Urban Street Gang

Our brief was to develop a broad educational offering around gangs…

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Building on the huge success of the My Life | My Choice programme in Birmingham, we were approached by the Home Office to develop additional learning resources to be used across the wider West Midlands region.

Extensive work had already been undertaken to engage schools, PRUs, alternative education providers and community groups across the region and so we were set the challenge of extending this scheme of work to a range of areas in the West Midlands. Our brief was to develop a broad educational offering around gangs with one consistent programme for schools that addressed emerging issues in different areas.

We were able to build on the data from earlier consultations with some staggering results collected one year on. These included a 25 per cent increase in teenagers in Birmingham who would no longer consider carrying a weapon or joining a gang under any circumstances measured by surveys conducted with up to 197 pupils before and after their exposure to the My Life | My Choice materials. The changes in attitudes and behaviour include:

  • 64 per cent increase in pupils realising that if they carry a weapon, they could put themselves and their friends in danger.
  • 68 per cent increase in the number of young people who realise that generally people who carry weapons end up injured by them. This rose  from under half to four in five (48 per cent to 81 per cent).
  • 50 per cent increase in pupils disagreeing that they would carry a weapon or joining a gang for self-protection.
  • 66 per cent increase in understanding of the fact that if a friend commits a serious crime while the pupil is with them, the pupil could get into trouble too.
  • The number who said they would talk to someone if they felt pressured to join a gang almost doubled, rising from 24 per cent before My Life | My Choice to 43 per cent afterwards.
  • Prior to My Life | My Choice, only half of respondents disagreed with the statement: “Carrying a weapon is exciting.” After My Life | My Choice around three-quarters strongly disagree.
  • And the 25 per cent increase in teenagers in Birmingham who would no longer consider carrying a weapon or joining a gang, mentioned above.

There is also anecdotal evidence of changed lives: for example, one teenage boy reported that whereas he had previously thought he would end up in prison or dead, now he can see himself gaining qualifications, earning a living and having a much brighter future.

Understanding choices and promoting better decision-making is one of the key drivers of the new set of resources that present the fictional story of a group of friends in the West Midlands whose lives are affected by gangs in one way or another. Naz, the central character faces a series of choices that have the potential to change his life forever, with devastating consequences.

The new programme entitled My Life | My Choice: Urban Street Gang will be delivered in schools in Sandwell and East Birmingham from October 2012 and includes a short film and accompanying lesson plans.


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