A Girl Like Lisa

Lisa is 16 and has both suffered from and witnessed extreme domestic abuse. She now lives away from her abuser but still suffers the effects of the violence she has seen and experienced.

Mainstream school has been impossible. Lisa’s anxiety caused her to display extremely challenging responses to the movement around school and the expectations of staff. As a consequence, Lisa has been excluded from two mainstream schools and a school for young people suffering from social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

She is currently being educated in a unit set up to support young people unable to cope with mainstream education. Lisa is taught one to one and only studies her GCSE courses part time. She is unable to work in the same room as other young people and she has few friends.

Lisa is hyper anxious. She is rail-thin and eats little preferring smoking and sugary drinks to calm her nerves and give her much needed energy.

Lisa has dreams and aspirations but given her start in life, not surprisingly she has low expectations. Her confidence is extremely fragile. As a consequence, she can be easily defeated and will often prefer not to try rather than find out that she has failed. She would swear, kick and spit; she would hate you before you could reject her.


Lisa has a sense of humour, she has made up nicknames and gently pokes fun at us. In the early stages of working with Lisa she literally shook with fear. She glared at anyone who spoke to her and huddled in corners, her chin tucked into the collar of her coat. At first she refused to leave the minibus and would sometimes hurl abuse at anyone who attempted to persuade her to do otherwise.

In order for Lisa to become an academic learner, her needs and anxieties needed to be addressed. Our specialist teaching approaches and bespoke learning programme has enabled her to find out what she can do instead of what she can’t. A great deal of time is spent building trust, we take part in practical activities alongside the young people making small steps of progress with acceptance and non-judgement, with clear boundaries to maintain a feeling of safety. Working with us has helped her find her own confidence and build the much needed resilience to face her past and her future.

She has now taken part in 26 Volunteering Hours for her V Inspired Award. She has gained her Sport Leadership Award NVQ Level One. She has worked in a team, tried new challenges and really pushed herself. The girl who would never take her coat off has worn overalls to paint furniture and fences, she has planted bulbs and built raised beds. She has met 43 local business people and worked alongside people she didn’t know. She smiles and laughs along with the seven other young people in her group and she has an impressive Skills Based CV and a realistic plan for her future.

Lisa has not only grown in confidence, she makes good decisions and feels more positive about her future. She’s taken steps to manage her anxiety and is keen to leave school and move on with her life. We aren’t saying she has faced all her fears, nor are we saying she is doesn’t need further support. She’s done a lot of hard work and has glimpsed a version of the person she can be.


We can only continue to work with girls like Lisa if we can raise enough money for a mini bus. The bus we had been using was so old that when the petrol tank began to leak we found the parts were no longer made.

We are funded by being commissioned as an approved alternative educational provider. Local Authorities in the region are having to cut another £40 million pounds from their budgets. A funded mini bus from them is out of the question.

Without a minibus we are unable to provide the wide range of learning visits and environments. We are unable to introduce these very isolated young people to their wider community. Because of their social and economic exclusion, they are unable to pay for fares on public transport. We desperately need to show them an alternative future which includes looking beyond their peer group and neighbourhood.

These young people have the potential to be terrific employees, they are loyal and resourceful. They need to be shown their talents in order to reach their potential. You can help us do this.