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Active games changing lives of young people in conflict with the law

The introduction of sport and physical games into the lives of young offenders makes a vital difference to their emotional stability, future education and employment opportunities, according to new project work being led by the University of Gloucestershire.

Working with several UK youth custody institutions, university teams have been managing the ‘Re-engaging Young Offenders in Education and Learning’ (RENYO) project, as well as a further three-year scheme to improve young people’s social and emotional skills called ‘Active Games 4 Change’ (AG4C).

Based on the success of these the University has been invited to join a further EU-partnership project titled ‘Life4Skills After Prison’ launching this May.

The projects share a common goal of improving the future prospects of incarcerated young people, with past results and future objectives suggesting enormous potential for progression.

Dr Adeela Shafi MBE, Associate Professor in Education at the University of Gloucestershire and leader of RENYO, AG4C and Life4Skills After Prison, explains:

“It costs upwards of £200,000 to place a young person in a secure children’s home for a year and at the moment there is a 60% chance of them reoffending on release. Clearly things need to change.

“Since its launch in 2018, RENYO has achieved significant advances. Over 50 educators have benefitted from the comprehensive training programme we have developed for those working in secure settings and across the partnership, and more than 100 young people will have benefitted from this work by the end of the project.

“In addition all of the materials we have created will be made freely available, with educators and learners working in custodial settings expected to particularly interested.

“There are many factors that contribute towards young people falling foul of the law, including being excluded from school, difficulty trying to overcome behavioural issues, coming from deprived backgrounds where parents have drug or alcohol addictions, and struggling with special education needs.

“RENYO flips traditional learning by putting young people and their interests first.

“For example, if a young person is interested in cars, we explore with them how this might connect to physics, engineering or even business studies.

“Our second project currently underway – AG4C – involves staff from the University of Gloucestershire’s School of Sports & Exercise, and the School of Education & Humanities. Psychologists are designing and delivering fun, active and engaging games that develop individuals’ coping mechanisms, including anger management, teamwork, and becoming more aware of the outcomes of their potential actions.”

Examples of these activities – including ‘Retrieval Challenge’; ‘Cross the Swamp’; ‘Escape Route’ and ‘Shelter Building’ – can all be viewed on the website:

RENYO, AG4C and Life4Skills After Prison are all funded by Erasmus+ – the EU’s programme supporting education, training, youth and sport in Europe. In addition to the UK, RENYO is working in three other partner countries: Italy, Germany and Spain; AG4C is being trialled with young people in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Hungary and Turkey, and Life4Skills After Prison works with partners in Greece, Norway and Italy as well as the UK.