Coding skills for young ex-offenders



We would like to thank our current supporters, people are giving us cash and support in kind.

The project has developed on 3 levels 


1,  We have added an enterprise aspect - showing ex-offenders how to use digital tools to market goods and services

2  The  project has now moved to 2 more cities Liverpool  and Bristol

3  We are being featured in a new TV  documentary on helping ex-offenders


We have recently launched a related initiative to our main programme, which teaches our students digital entrepreneurial skills. We feel that we should be supporting our students to seek self-employment. There is the growing sector of digital start-ups, where the key skill is not only coding but also the ability to apply these skills in a business context. Students are focussing doing coding for websites so they can build their own or offer this service to the market. 

We have engaged our students in speed dating from role models in the tech industry and those who are running Tech start-ups. This has been fantastic. Students can learn how they could try and start their own small company. We have also asked these tech experts to become role models.

We are now seeking funding and support for our students to get seed money to start their own enterprise. We also seek help from a range of companies to give us mentors and internships.

We have undertaken an impact study, we are doing pre and post study of our intervention to test it’s effectiveness. We are also looking at a theory of change, to see that we are fulfilling our objectives.

We are not just seeking advice and support on how to make these talented students build the confidence to start their own enterprise. How can we get more mentors? Are there companies willing to give us some internship?

We continue to improve on our project for ex-offenders. We are now using them as Mentors. They are able to, tell their stories of crime and show their coding skills to younger students at risk.

 We still need help to resource our training of these students. The donations pay specifically for the cost of the training and our link to friendly employers.

The project aims to avoid homelessness through the provision of housing advice and support to prisoners and their families. The project also provides through care support for those offenders with more complex needs to assist them to access specialist agencies in the community to address their needs. The project provides supported accommodation through an approach based on the adult placement model (which has traditionally been used for supporting adultswith learning difficulties).

The young person is placed in a family home, and the mentor supports the young person to develop life skills, to engage in family and community activities, and to participate in employability training to build a prosocial lifestyle.

Research suggests that holistic interventions that address multiple criminogenicneeds are more likely to be effective in reducing reoffending, but there is strong evidence that provision of practical support in prison is unlikely to have a lastingimpact on the risk of reoffending unless it continues upon release. These approaches therefore follow a throughcare model, with on-going support in the community s to access and co-ordinate the services that ex-offenders require to meet their needs. We now adopt a throughcare model – with Technology skills as a key for our young people to re-join the world.

What needs to be done: - Almost half of all prisoners say that employment (48%) and skills deficits (42%) are most important to their sentence - A recent PET survey showed that only 18% of offenders felt supported by prison officers in their learning- 76% of prisoners do not have paid employment to go to after release- Half of all prisoners do not have the skills required by 96% of jobs. - Only one in five prisoners are able to complete a job application form.

What ideas do you have on ways to integrate ex-offenders back into society? How do you think we can tackle the stigma, that many employers have about this group?


The coding for young offenders has progressed on a number of levels. We now have  300 students across London and they now attend STEM Academies in the north and south of the borough.


A new dimension  to the programme is that we are using our students as role models. They go into local schools and tell their stories of how the programme has helped them. This  encourages young people to see Science and Technology as a real alternative.



Our students have powerful stories of change and the power of Education.


In terms of the way Generating Genius works. We have become much tighter in measuring our impact.  We have developed a  model that emphasises the ‘Why’  and ‘How’ rather than the ‘What’. We feel that an enormous

amount of ideas are generated around different types of interventions in an effort to initiate changes of

behaviour in this client group. An equal focus on our motives and devising more effective ways of

delivering services would generate greater success.

The model is based on a foundation of three practices:

  Reflexive Practice: The ability to consider a variety of influences in decision making, including personal history.

  Non-oppressive Practice: being able to approach all relationships with an awareness of possible prejudices.

  Multi-Disciplinary Practice: The ability to think and act professionally in a variety of disciplines.

  The model then emphasises the importance of human qualities, such as Honesty, Integrity, Trust and Resilience, that are critical to service delivery and yet not the focus of any practitioner or policy maker training.

  Theories devised by academics, researchers and practitioners around the subject of children and families also deserve consideration. Theories such as attachment, attunement and brain development should shape the delivery of services.

  The model focuses on the application of the above, underlining aspects such as evaluation, training and professional supervision.

  Finally, the model underlines the importance of appropriate service delivery structures and other contextual influences to ensure effective outcomes for vulnerable children & families.



We have now devised a training programme for  teachers based on this model which works alongside giving our students coding skills.



We are seeking funds to scale this programme to a national level.


Dr. Tony Sewell | Director
Generating Genius
+44(0)79 5659 8503

Our project  seeks to give students who are ex-offenders the opportunity to get access to courses that prepare students for job interviews in the Science industry. 

What have we achieved so far:

We have created a digital platform which means that we can undertake psychometric testing of our students so that we can best prepare them for the right jobs

We have increased the number of ex-offenders from 50  to  200. 

We have also managed to persuade more employers to give our students an opportunity to interview for apprenticeship. 

This is the story of Marcus Nelson, who was in our first tranche of students. It is told in his own words (unedited):

‘I was brought up on an estate in south-east London. I lived with my mother, step-dad and five siblings. I didn't have the best relationship with my father growing up. Due to a complex past, my sister and I would visit him in a contact centre once every one or two weeks. I remember feeling quite confused and upset during these times but I used school as a haven for my mind to escape. I had a particular thirst for maths, where I excelled by always asking for more difficult problems to solve mentally. I left with the highest results in my school and looked forward to learning more.

My secondary school wasn't the best-behaved. Most of my classes were disrupted and I found it hard to focus as I too began to fool around in lessons with my friends. Towards the end of my first year though, I received an application form from my head of year for Generating Genius. At the time, becoming a research scientist wasn't at the top of my to-do list. Although I was interested in science, my dream was to become a DJ. Simply because it sounded cool! After a period of reluctance I figured it was a great opportunity and decided to apply.

A few months passed and much to my surprise I was short-listed to the interview stages, where forty of us battled for a place on the programme. The interview felt more like an interrogation with four dragons breathing down my neck. I remember being asked very abstract and challenging questions involving science that I hadn't yet encountered. The process was rigorous and I didn't feel very confident about claiming a spot on the programme as everyone there seemed so smart! I was over the moon to hear that I was chosen to be one of the ten boys on the Generating Genius programme.

Our first year entailed a four-week trip to the University of the West Indies. We stayed on the campus as if we were students and attended classes ranging from physical chemistry to marine biology. It felt like we were on another planet. We weren't copying out of a science textbook: it was the first time we had the freedom and equipment to actually see real science comes alive. Although most people come to Jamaica for a holiday we definitely did not. Every morning we were made to run for two miles and even worked until 8pm some nights. Apart from the beaches, my highlights were cloning a pineapple in biotechnology and watching live brain surgery. They were such enriching and invaluable experiences that your average twelve year old can only dream of.

The project attracted a lot of attention. It was as if I had gained celebrity status based on my successes rather than faults or crimes, which is a nice change for a boy from Lewisham. Although it wasn't cool to be a scientist from where I was from I was respected in school. I do remember some friends being slightly envious of me as I had so much to write on my personal statement for my university application, whereas they had nothing.

Generating Genius has made me a more confident and well-rounded person. I have also developed a real interest in science and appreciate its applications. It definitely kept me from going off the rails throughout my school career by giving me a goal and healthy competition. None of the boys on the project wanted to have to tell each other that we had failed an exam. We became very competitive but maintained a strong relationship throughout the project.

We spent three weeks at Imperial College and looked at chemiluminescence, robotics and malaria. Each week we would have a task involving one of the three topics and form a presentation based on our work to a panel of judges. The highlight was working on malaria with actual postgraduate researchers, where we looked at real life solutions to malaria in Mozambique. I also enjoyed presenting my work and ideas on robotics and programming to the Vice-President of Shell. Every week posed an increased level of importance and pressure.

The boys on the project and I have also presented work at the Royal Academy of Engineering, Google and more. All of these experiences are important to me as I know not many people get such opportunities. They have given me confidence and the attitude that I can achieve whatever I want in life.

Over the years I visited numerous universities with Generating Genius where we were pushed and exposed to a new branch of science on every trip. We developed our presentation skills and our ability to pitch ideas confidently and concisely. I became more and more interested in science and it quickly became my strongest and favourite subject in school. It was only natural that I would pick the sciences and maths for my A-levels. My personal statement for uni was jam-packed full of extracurricular, science related activities I had taken part in on the project over the years. I applied to study Biochemistry at five Russell group universities and was given an offer from all of them.

I am about to graduate in biochemistry from the University of Bristol. During my studies I’ve continued my involvement with Generating Genius and acted as a mentor to students on the programme. It’s made me want to ensure that young people from backgrounds like mine get the same incredible opportunities Generating Genius gave to me. They literally changed my life.’

We plan to go national with our programme operating in two cities Birmingham and Manchester  We will need funds to set -up in these areas. The cost to train an ex-offender over a 6 month period  is 200 dollars.  We want to train 60 in the next months.  12000  dolllars. 


We want to concentrte  in training young people in the soft skills, so they can adapt or re-integrate back into mainstream society. We partner with an organisation called, Social Butterfly Effect (SBE) who work with young people who have been identified to be at risk of exclusion or have experience a custodial sentence. SBE deliver the Personal and Social Development aspect of the project and create an inclusive environment when working with groups of young people in education / learning institutions, who have been identified to be disaffected or 'at risk'.


SBE predominantly deliver inclusion projects in mainstream education and engage students in programmes that confront the issues that can lead to exclusion. SBE design bespoke workshops that are tailored to suit the school and student group within Primary and Secondary education. The aim of the programmes are to confront attitudes and behaviours that contribute to getting excluded and challenge negative perceptions about education and learning whilst at the same time illustrate the dangers involved in making negative choices.

The workshops are delivered over 6 - 8 weeks and incorporate discussions, debates, role play, group work, Documentaries, short films and team building and drama activities. The workshops are themed and cover topics tackling subjects such as Empowerment (Abuse of power / Bullying / Authority), Choice (Exclusion / Inclusion / Antisocial behaviour), Belonging (School / Family / Gangs), Independence (Responsibility / Dependencies), Opportunity (Response to exclusion / Creative content) and Leaders (Students presentation to family member(s) / Heads of School / Special Guests).  

The activities are centred around choices and consequences and allow students to identify alternative ways of responding to authority. We use the students experiences of exclusion as real life case studies and work with the examples set by group. The workshops are intense and provide the students with self reflection techniques and the opportunity to make a positive decision. We highlight the fact that a student's behaviour can change and so can their reputation. By promoting self reflection, the students identify coping mechanism that allow them to manage their behaviours and attitudes towards education and learning.

By developing an Inclusive practice, we aim to confront the behaviours and attitudes which can all lead to negative reactions and consequences within education and life at large. We take an alternative approach to tackling difficult behaviours by incorporating drama activities and interactive resources. We confront negative attitudes to education / social scenarios and use the students experiences as case studies and examples.

We work with the most disaffected young people within mainstream education and deliver workshops that engage, empower, confront and develop team skills and self esteem. We challenge the negative actions which are demonstrate week to week by discussion and by using the students own 'real life' scenarios as a point of discussion. Communicating to the students requires a variety of methods and we frequently organise meetings, one to ones, parents student meetings and teacher / students mediations.

The workshops include a variety of teaching methods to engage and confront the issues mentioned and SBE incorporate visits by ex offenders, prison professionals and special guests, who can share their experiences with the students for the benefit of making the right decisions. Throughout the weeks we allocate roles and responsibilities and students are assigned roles such  as the photographer, workshop mentor and presentation leader, so all students get the opportunity to take ownership of the project and create content for the final presentation.  The content is then collated and a final short video is produced by Social Butterfly Effect (SBE) to accompany their screening in the final session. Generating Genius becomes a powerful unit when working with Social Butterfly, because you have a great combination of teaching young people at risk , the value of hard and soft skills.

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Generating Genius

South Croydon, Surrey, United Kingdom

Project Leader

Tony Sewell

South croydon, Surrey United Kingdom

Where is this project located?