Ipswich Academy, formerly Holywells High School, is based in an area with a high proportion of low income households. The academy is run by the Learning Schools Trust, which also sponsors two other secondary schools in London.

Although the xl programme has been running at the Academy for the past six years, the sponsors were so impressed by the life-changing influence it has on the confidence and ambition of students that they decided to massively expand it, meaning that three clubs now run per year group instead of one.

“The xl programme is so successful because it teaches all aspects of life skills rather than just one single area, covering vital topics such as teamwork, business and preparation for the world of work,” said Mal Akhlak, Applied Curriculum Manager at Ipswich Academy. “It has been hugely successful in empowering young people who often come from very difficult backgrounds, equipping them with the coping skills and tools required to be successful in the wider world.”

Highlights of the Ipswich Academy xl programme have included a six week fire safety course and a driving course, which included a theory test and practical lesson. Young people have also embarked on several fundraising projects, including running a school disco and setting up a monthly car wash as a profit-making business.

Chloe is an example of a student who has made huge progress since she started the programme. She came into The Prince’s Trust xl club at the start of year 10 with extremely low confidence, not believing that she was good at anything and wouldn’t even consider her future. At the start of the car wash project Chloe was very quiet and would mainly observe other team members, however when it was decided to turn the car wash into a profit-making business, the students allocated roles and chose her as company Director. The fact her peers had voted for her gave her an enormous boost of confidence and she embraced the role with enthusiasm, taking her role seriously and making sure that standards were of the highest quality.

Previously Chloe was predicted Es and Fs in her GCSEs and hadn’t made plans for the future, however as a result of taking part in the programme she now has a good chance of getting Cs in all key subjects and has been accepted into the sixth form. She was also recently recognised by The Trust for her dedication to learning and progress.

“The fact that the xl clubs are student-led gives young people like Chloe a voice and shows them they are being listened to. It demonstrates that all people are of equal importance and that their opinions are highly valuable, no matter what their background or age,” said Mal Akhlak.

After taking part in the programme, young people’s attendance and attitude has picked up significantly, meaning that students have the confidence to contribute to other areas of the Academy community.

A good example of this is Nasir Uddin who was on the verge of permanent exclusion for disruptive behaviour. After taking part in teambuilding exercises he was able to view things differently and understand that he needed to co-operate with others to achieve goals. This led to a huge behaviour shift - so much so that he was recently awarded the title of Prefect by the very same Head of Year who had previously said he faced permanent exclusion if his behaviour did not change.

“Taking part in the programme has led to a noticeable increase in confidence, self awareness and personal skills among the students,” said Mal. “However the biggest impact is increased personal aspiration. Our xl students have low expectations when they first start, however the skills they learn give them the self-belief to go on to bigger and better things. Rather than leaving school without any prospects, as the majority of them would have done before participating, 95% of our xl students go on to Further Education and training.”

The xl programme has made such an impact on Ipswich Academy that it is now used as a scaffold to deliver various subjects within their learning framework and the scheme of work is available for young people to access via an innovative online portal system. The programme is now also included in the student options booklet, meaning that young people can actively choose to follow the xl pathway.