Zutphen The Town Of Second Chances

So here we are it's again raining and I am soaking in not only the rain but in the massive amount of information that our delegates have been collecting. As I explained in my piece yesterday (Zutphen where the only red light is the traffic lights) the delegation comprises Youth Workers, Educationalists and other agencies involved not only in the youth of shropshire but moreso with young offenders and non school atttenders. Here we have been looking at how the Dutch deal with such problems and exchanging ideas and points of views. Some fascinating discussions have been had. However, through all the discussions one point emerges; we both towns have young offenders and we both have to deal with anti social behaviour.

The Dutch take the view that young people can make mistakes and we as adults need to point those mistakes out as opposed to just simply jailing the child without any explorations. Here in Zutphen that is so different. The police will judge each case on its merits and any mitigating circumstances.. Is the child in poverty? Does the child seem lost and unloved? Are there problems at home? Can this child be made to see the error of his ways? In fact the Police told us that every child has a right to be heard and there are structures in place to help the authorities treat the offender holistically and involve every element of his life from parents, teachers, social workers and other youth workers.

An offender is faced with three options. Admittedly they are not his decisions to make but they will be made in his best interest. Imagine if you will, a child has stolen a bicycle. A major inconvenience for the owner but it may be passed off as high jinks and might not necassarily warrant an custodial sentence. They will then meet and discuss the way ahead. If the child is a first offender and shows remorse he will be treated by the Halt programme. Halt is an intervention programe that involves talking about the offence and the trouble it caused. There is also the chance for the victim to face the offender and explain the trouble he caused, there is also a chance for the offender to apologise and focus more on how his crime affected his victims. Naturally their is a punitive element as the offender will be made to serve community service also.

If a child/teenager is involved in acohol and drugs the police will send the child initially to Halt and then they will further send him to Bok. Bok is an alcohol and drug awareness programme that will address the issue of addiction before they look at what it was the offender did.

The third strand of defence for the police is the least popular and that, of course, is imprisonment. No one wants that and people believe offenders may well come out of prison as a bigger, more relevant player in the gang scene;  wearing the badge of prison. The townsfolk wish to avoid that and would rather send them down the Halt route.

All the way through the school system there is a chance to take a child out of the classroom and offer an alternative to school. Smaller learning groups that do excursions as well as the didactic chalk and talk learning. After all it was the didactic approach that sent them down the non attendance root. There are a lot of success stories to do with these youngsters and the Dutch are very forgiven for one who shows remorse.

All through the school career of a child there is always the opportunity for the teacher to remove disruptive elements and put them through the new system where they will be steered correctly , still learning the curriculum taught in the other schools but at a pace that suits them in safe sized, non intimidatory buildings and settings.

The youth of Zutphen are important for the town's future and all the time the authorities are planning to make Zutphen somewhere the young hope to stay when they grow up.New housing estates are planned in the outer limits of the town and new industrial parks will be built to keep the youth. In so many towns in England the youths have to leave to find work or affordable housing whilst the rich buy all the property not so in Zutphen they care very much about losing the young and will do all they can to stop them'from going.

Last night we watched a film at the home of one of our hosts and it was a touching film called The Freedom Writers about a school teacher who was able to empower her students and instil tolerance and understanding, which, of course helped with their grades. It is an well known theory in England too, that whilst we know children will learn better in stimulative environments the English Teachers , (I use that to cover all teacher's, I mean the english nationals not the english subject) have limited time and resources and the class can only move as fast of the disruptive element. The Dutch know fully that to offer alternative education to these miscreants will improve the chances of the better behaved students and the disruptive child too.

To ensure the best is given to the child at all time there is a synergie between the schools, the social services and the police, all there to improve the children's chances and instil some self worth and self belief into the young offender or class disruptor. There is a feeling that all the professionals daily seek to make changs to improve the lot of everybody. Last night about midnight a group of youths walked towards me in a very dark alley.It was about midnight not a soul was around. I wasn't scared but aware of the potential for trouble. "Ooops,"  thought I , "Hallo meneer," They meant Hello Sir and I got the impression that these guys had no problems with adults and expected the same from us. It works well and overall the education system in Zutphen is seen as giving all youngsters hopes and goals. 

In England we try that too but with such few resources at our finger tips we have to bump along. We have much to learn from the Dutch and that is another endorsement of the twinning scheme. Let us hope that we stay linked for a long time to come. As a town, Shrewsbury, we have a very lot of friends in Zutphen They love our town and they love us. When one lady heard me talking in the street and heard the word Shrewsbury she came across and said she organised a trip thirty five years ago for the Castle B Ceilidh Band. It was amazing I told her I was a seventeen year old boy on that trip and she said she could remeber me. She could also remember a host of Shrewsbury names and reeled them off, I knew all of them. What a healthy relationship I am observing on my trip over here.



Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet. Follow hos blogspot at https://owenscribblerlewis.blogspot.com

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