All About Youth


Case Study: Max

Case Study: Max reaching new milestones thanks to SYA Step Forward project

Like many others in his group at the SYA Step Forward project, Max, 16, quickly discovered that mainstream schooling wasn’t the right place for him.

This became even more apparent when, due to his constant fidgeting and inability to focus, his teachers began to place him in lower sets. As Max was a smart and more than capable student, his already bad behaviour worsened resulting in his sudden expulsion from school when he was in Year 9.

Mum said

“They managed him down the sets, from the higher sets due to his fidgeting, but he is really bright, but the fidgeting wasn’t allowed so he was moved and then the academic work didn’t challenge him.”

His mum, Sam, opened up about this experience saying that “it was devastating as a mum after Max was expelled”. As Max is her fourth son, his behaviour and subsequent expulsion wasn’t something that she had expected to happen, referring to the expulsion as a “zero tolerance policy gone wrong”.

“My three other boys remained in school and one has gone to university but it was clear it was a different journey for Max.”

She described the time after his expulsion as “anguishing”, with Max stuck at home with nothing to do for months.

“His friendship group was taken away… and he had no shared experiences with anyone.

“It was lucky that we didn’t live in a city as he would’ve been out on the streets and in trouble.”

Fortunately, Shropshire Council provided Max and his mum with a much-needed lifeline – reintroducing the option for Max to continue his education by offering him the last remaining place in the Step Forward programme at SYA in September 2020.

On his first day at SYA, Max revealed that he had felt “sceptical after everything that had happened with school” however, once he’d spent some time with the group, he quickly understood that the programme was “a good thing” and, alongside his part-time farming job and home schooling, he began working towards his future and has achieved more than anyone expected or planned for him.

Vanessa Postle, Project Leader, explained how Max had spoken to her a few weeks before the end of his time at SYA and – having learned that he had already surpassed the requirements for a Level 1 Certification – asked to do more modules to try and earn his Level 2 Diploma.

Max has now finished his time on the programme with a total of 39 credits and his Level 2 Diploma in Personal Development and Employability. He also takes with him some fundamental life skills such as managing money and presenting to a group.

His mum said that Max’s decision to push himself even further for the diploma “made her proud as it showed that he was thinking forward to his future”.

“We can’t thank SYA and the project enough for the support and the opportunity which Max grasped with both hands.”

Since Max’s first day at SYA she believes that “he is worlds apart from where he used to be” and “he’s come back to the lovely boy that he always was”.

“It’s been a fundamental year in Max’s development thanks to SYA – it could have been very different – he could have been in a very different place.

“Schools are too narrow and if you don’t fit the shoe, you’re given then you’re told ‘you’re not good enough for our society’.

“We have got high hopes for him now.”

Max adds: “Imagine the stuff that I’d have achieved if I’d been here since Year 7.

“I hope there’s a lot more schools like this one day”.

Max is smiling, confident and was looking forward to a job interview the next day at Hartshorns in Shrewsbury.

Anybody interested in finding out more about the project should email

Anybody who is interested in offering any opportunities to the youngsters on the programme such as practical skill demonstrations or wants to fundraise for the SYA charity or nominate the charity as their corporate charity of the year then email

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