Coding skills for young ex-offenders

by Generating Genius


We have recently found that our students have managed to obtain a number of ‘artistic’ and social skills as a result of the programme:


Interactive: good for those with kinaesthetic learning preference, helps keep learner actively engaged and can provide instant feedback
Multi-sensory: auditory, visual and hands on learning recommended for dyslexia Work at their own pace: is non-critical and patient, can repeat sections as often as you like
Help with literacy: read-back software and/or speech input, text highlighting, spell checking, predictive software
Help with organisation: electronic organisers, drafting facilities like cut and paste, mind mapping programmes Accommodate individual learning styles: adapting colour of background and foreground, changing font size and type. The  project has been innovative.  Opportunities for young ex-offenders have been very difficult, with few employers willing to take risks. This project  not only supported this group but used resources raised to give them key technical skills to have a fighting chance for a job. 



The project fulfilled 3 objectives for 300 students. 

1  They have secured real coding skills that can be used for employement and further training


2 We gave students some key soft skills:

 Trust of others- how much I trust others’ ideas, qualities and opinions in this lesson

. Pace- how much pace, risk and change I like in this lesson

  Disclosure- how willing am I share to share thoughts, ideas, opinions and questions in this lesson

  Perspective- whether I see things from a detached or personal perspective in this lesson

Processing- whether I focus on making connections or following step by step in this lesson

  Planning- whether I focus on the learning outcome or am open ended in this lesson


3  We have placed most of our students on  real work inernships with  STEM companies.   This aspect of the project needs real support in terms of administration costs and also the transport costs for our students




We have also pointed our students to a programme run by the Sutton Trust: We would need funding in supporting our students in pre-application process


Pathways to STEM, which is kindly supported by the Kusuma Trust UK, has been established to widen access to STEM degrees and the wide range of careers they open up. The Pathways to STEM programme supports academically able low and middle-income state school students to access the most selective STEM university courses and provide them with the foundation for a STEM career through the development of soft skills, a work placement, careers advice and a mentor.


Research by the Sutton Trust has identified a strong demand for skills in STEM areas, excellent and growing career prospects and a significant under- representation of those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds at entry and higher levels.


Pathways to STEM includes a range of sessions for students, parents and teachers, including tailored education and careers advice; academic classes in STEM subjects; sessions to develop non-academic skills; a residential summer school; a work experience placement in a relevant STEM setting; assignment of a mentor; and a graduation event for students and parents. Pathways to STEM will work with students in Years 10 and 11 to provide advice on key decisions and help with the step-up to A-level study, before also supporting them in Years 12 and 13. The programme is run through university partners, Nottingham and York.

The  project has been innovative.  Opportunities for young ex-offenders have been very difficult, with few employers willing to take risks. This project  not only supported this group but used resources raised to give them key technical skills to have a fighting chance for a job. 


The project fulfilled 3 objectives for 300 students. 

1  They have secured real coding skills that can be used for employement and further training


2 We gave students some key soft skills:

 Trust of others- how much I trust others’ ideas, qualities and opinions in this lesson

. Pace- how much pace, risk and change I like in this lesson

  Disclosure- how willing am I share to share thoughts, ideas, opinions and questions in this lesson

  Perspective- whether I see things from a detached or personal perspective in this lesson

Processing- whether I focus on making connections or following step by step in this lesson

  Planning- whether I focus on the learning outcome or am open ended in this lesson


3  We have placed most of our students on  real work inernships with  STEM companies


We would like to thank all our donors for their Generoisty

Somewhere in the mid 1990s, we lost our way. The education system largely ignored the explosive growth of computing and the internet, instead focusing on teaching students how to write Word documents. Instead of a nation of builders and entrepreneurs, we were content for our children to become also-rans on the technology stage.

Dr Tony Sewell has been appointed by the Secretary of State to be on the Youth Justices board. The body responsible for Youth Justice in England and Wales. The appointment has been the result of the work done on the Coding and Ex- offenders programme.

The Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, appointed Dr Tony Sewell as a new member of the Youth Justice Board. Lord McNally, Chair of Youth Justice Board, said: "Tony has an outstanding track record in the education sector at both national and international level, and his pioneering work to raise the attainment of children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds is exemplary. His passion for addressing educational discrimination has driven real change in the school system. I look forward to working with Tony in his role to provide challenge and support to the Board and in bringing his special experience to the issue of the over representation of black and ethnic young people in our criminal justice system."

The charity will now take on a more lobbying role as it looks at how Coding can influence the pathways of ex-offenders. This is an exciting position to have.

The government also want to put education at the heart of the experience of these young people. We are now coming to an end point in the programme but still need funds to enable us to do high level evaluation. We want to measure a range of skills


What is the study? The study will measure the impact of our (social programme) upon the social, emotional and cognitive development of students. Our hope is that the study will broaden understanding of the non-academic dividend in educational models and highlight where gaps in the actual impacts of different models on student development can be overcome.

What will the study involve? The study has been designed for minimal school disruption and time allocation. It involves 50% of young people completing a one hour online assessment. The assessments can be conducted within our own ICT suite under the supervision of an internal member of staff, supplied with a full briefing and instructions to run the session.

This proposal is a priority because we wish to develop and implement the assessment mechanism which would reveal the academic and aspirational baseline of disadvantaged students, including working class boys. Our activities, as part of this proposal, will give young ex-offenders a better assessment of where they are educationally to reveal their true level of ability. us the ability to measure the impact of our programme.



As part of our skills development programme we are now getting our students to develop Apps that will ex- offenders integrate into mainstream society. 


The Digital Divide. Using ICT and the internet is a functional skill of increasing significance for communication, accessing public services, research, education, banking and employment. The digital divide between people in prison and in the community is rapidly widening and will make resettlement more difficult if these skills have not been developed. Managing risk and reducing reoffending. There is huge potential to use ICT and controlled internet access as a tool to improve prisoners’ rehabilitation and reduce reoffending. There are of course security risks which need to be managed. However, given the high cost to the tax payer and victims of reoffending, security risks need to be managed in a more proportionate way to enable ICT to become an effective tool for rehabilitation.  

Our Apps will help those who have :

1  legal rights for those inthe care system

2 Data base of charities and organisations that can help with jobs and training

3  How to mange your finances

4  Anger management 


It is based on the following research fromour students: 


As an introduction, the young men were told that the purpose of the focus group would be to inform a major report on care leavers and the justice system that would make practical recommendations to reduce the high numbers of young people from care ending up in prison. The questions sought their views and opinions as young BAME people who had been through the care system. It was stressed that we didn’t want them to disclose any details they felt uncomfortable disclosing. The discussions and responses did highlight a range of themes:


  • Negative stereotyping;
  • Lack of role models;
  • Poor relationships with social workers;
  • The impact of successive moves;
  • Poor educational and career guidance;
  • Police harassment.




  1. The discussion




  1. Tell us about your experience in the care system?


Two members of the group gave tentative responses to the opening question


“I had a number of foster carers a lot of moves usually due to my behaviour. There would be an incident, and they’d just move me no consultation. I was in shared accommodation by the council before I ended up here in Feltham.”


“I hated being in care. I was moved about frequently never settled. I had a flat from the council but lost that when I came here”


“‘I didn’t get to see my family much and when I did it would be a brief visit because I would then have to travel back to Southend”


  1. Has your experience of being in the care system contributed to you being at HMP Feltham?


All the young men who responded to this question spoke of negative relationships with social workers. Central to this was a lack of any consultation on major decisions such as moves.




“They give you a £40 a week but no real support or guidance. I was getting into trouble fights and stuff. They moved me out of London to Southend. No black people out there felt really isolated lots of stops by the Police. The system set me up to fail”




“Lots of moves never an explanation or asking what I wanted or how I felt. I had seven moves between the ages 13-16. Social workers never supported me. They moved me from Harrow to Clacton Essex. That’s where I got into drugs. When I was in London I was involved in violent crime, fighting but moving to a different area I was involved in different types of crime mostly drug related”


“Because of the lack of financial support and I had to buy my own clothes, food and then travel to Colchester for college I would get in to lots of trouble because I would bump the fares and then get fined”


“No useful education support or careers advice. The relationships with my social workers were really poor they just wanted to tick the boxes. Never looked at me as an individual. Nobody cared!”


“The social workers would just put you on a course in college to tick a box, but it was never anything that I was interested in so then I would just leave and then that would lead me to get in to trouble on the streets”






  1. What more could have been done to have prevented you being at HMP Feltham?


The lack of positive influences was raised under this question as was the need for young people from their backgrounds to be shown different opportunities


“Financial education is crucial. You are on your own and no one has ever shown you how to manage money. “


“We should get better support from social workers. If they can’t, get people who can”


“Mentors who have been through what we have been through and actually care about us as individuals” and who will stick with us and show us different options to crime”


“More opportunities to experience different things that could inspire us”


“Being exposed to different routes in education and career options that interest us”


  1. Why do you think there is an over-representation of young men from black and minority ethnic backgrounds at HMP Feltham and in the youth justice system generally? What can be done to avoid this?


Harsher relationship[s with the police and discrimination and stereotyping were highlighted in response to this question.




“You are just not given a chance on the outside as a young black man- you are always judged negatively.”




“The Police – the unfair treatment is just normal if you’re black”




“Once you have been inside and come out the criminal record just stops any chance you have of going straight. So you get pulled back into crime. Its worse if you are black just harder to get that break”




“I feel from young the system has been training me to come here”






  1. Black and minority ethnic young people are over represented in the care system do you think they are treated fairly in the system and that their needs are met? What can be done to address this?


“Nobody wants to be taken in care. The decision to take me into care was devastating. The school was a big factor. I’d row with my mum. Come to school with bruises. They reported it. Then your family think you’re a snitch. All the professionals have a negative stereotypical view of black families. The professionals don’t understand our lives they don’t live in our areas they don’t know people like us. They hate us!”




“Social workers just don’t relate to us. I had a good relationship with one social worker and then they left, I don’t even know why, but that was the only social worker that I got on with and after that it was just downhill”




“Keeping us near to family, so that we can get family support”




  1. Should the youth justice system do more to support young people from the care system away from the youth justice system?


A clear message was the need for professionals to listen to young people and that race, due to negative stereotypes, can further inhibit that happening.




“We need better activities. The one service at the YOT that was really useful was a counselling service because they were interested in you and your side of the story. The YOT workers were terrible just interested in finding faults and telling you what to do. All judgemental and just ticking boxes”




“Relationships are crucial and being treated as an individual and with respect. Try to see things from both sides. Go beyond the stereotypes and see the individual.”




“I only had one professional that ever cared and went that bit extra.”




“To make me change you got to show me the alternatives!”




  1. Conclusions


Clearly there was a lot of feedback from the young men that would, in all likelihood, be generic to the experience of all care leavers who end up in the justice system, regardless of their race or ethnicity. There was, however, a sense from their reality that race compounds the negative experience further, fuelled by stereotypes and institutional methodologies that value paper trails and policies more than the bedrock relationships that can steer young people onto different paths.


The notion of cultural competence wasn’t mentioned by the young men but there was a sense that professionals and institutions failed to have a sympathetic understanding of the lived experience of these boys as they were when in care. The lack of voice through their whole experience within the care system points to the need for independent mentors and advocates who can support them through the process and may provide the role models they needed. This would represent a major culture shift for Local Authorities but would provide the child with a source of independent advocacy and support.


The need expressed in the discussions for contact with others who share a similar cultural heritage should also be addressed. Undoubtedly more thought and care must be taken around moves, particularly when that involves weakening family ties (where those ties are appropriate.) Moving young BAME people to areas where there are small BAME communities really should be thought through and the views of the young person should be heard through the decision making process.


From the position of corporate policy and strategy the focus group also begged the question of how much attention Local Authorities are paying to the quantitative and qualitative issues around young BAME people in their care. One of the recommendations for the review from BTEG would be for councils to conduct regular equality analysis on the numbers of young BAME people in their care, there experience through the system in comparison to their white counterparts and, where poorer outcomes are recorded plans, put in place to address this.


The focus group clearly highlighted the need for a voice for young BAME people through both the care and youth justice systems.


Finally, we would to thank the young men for participating in the focus group and sharing their experiences.





The project has progressed really well and we are now seeing our students either progressing to college or getting jobs. In terms of impact - the ability to Code really makes a difference. We have 200 students on the books of that cohort 80 per cent will get a job in a tech firm.

Marketing and communications strategy for the next phase of growth






On Thursday 10 September, firstlight Public Relations met with Dr Tony Sewell to discuss whether support from the agency might be useful. Tony explained that despite significant success, with around 200 13-14 year old students currently enrolled, time and capacity issues are holding back the organisation. A plan is needed for a more systematic marketing approach to broaden Generating Genius’s impact beyond London.




To create a marketing and communications plan that will raise awareness of Generating Genius as a national programme for ex-ofenders.


SWOT Analysis


Before initiating marketing activities, it’s important to understand the organisation’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. We think these are broadly:


Internal                                                           External




  • Track record – circa 200 students per year
  • Expert understanding of a social problem
  • Esteemed team and high profile sponsors
  • Open field - nobody else fulfilling the role
  • Aligned with Government priorities – narrowing the gap and STEM in the UK
  • Programme fits around existing needs
  • Successful case studies currently on the programme




  • Size of problem vs. size of organisation
  • Demands on HT/Head of Science time
  • Perceptions of time and commitment


  • Alternative programmes launched
  • Employers perception negative
  • Focus on 5 A-Cs rather than ability
  • Inertia –

We will use the Opportunities as the lens through which to direct our activities:


The Open field means we can stake-out our position as experts in solving a major social problem and ensure a future for the brightest kids who would be otherwise left behind.


Being aligned with Government priorities on social exclusion and promoting STEM means we can secure top-tier endorsement and overcome doubters.



Success case studies are the proof of the pudding and the most powerful endorsement for why schools should open their doors and budget to Generating Genius.




With a clear understanding of where the opportunities are, we can start mapping who we need to speak to. Resources and time are limited which means careful targeting of decision-making individuals and organisations that are influential in the education environment.


Plan of action


The proposed plan is built around three platforms:


  • Creating Awareness
  • Making engagement matter
  • Communicating expertise



Creating awareness


One of the most important tasks is to tell or remind people of Generating Genius’s presence and achievements. In its simplest form this is about making sure we are in the right places and have the right materials to convince decision makers.


Briefing packs


There is no need to reinvent the wheel. We would propose a slight rework of the copy on the website and the information leaflet to create a briefing document for email and hard copy distribution. We would propose bringing some key sections to the front of this document.

Having made the case for ‘why wouldn’t you do this’ we would then go into more detail around how the programme works.


This would be used to create two briefing packs. The electronic format would be a PDF booklet. This is a very accessible document which can be opened on most computers. It can also be updated easily as the organisation evolves. This would be emailed to a target list of head teachers, department heads and the university stakeholders.


The hard copy of the briefing pack would be a printed version of the electronic document contained in a simple folder which allows for a tailored piece of collateral to be added and a business card inserted. For instance, at a Parliamentary event, a briefing document on success in particular MPs’ constituencies could be added.

Key events

We would recommend a presence at:


Case studies


Your successful students are the most powerful case for participation. We propose to capture their experience so it can be profiled for stakeholders. We would meet and interview two to three of your outstanding people now at university and profile them:


  • As case studies for the media. A one page write-up and photograph which we can send to journalists writing about Generating Genius. This would be a key piece of collateral for a media outreach programme.
  • As video shorts. Two minute videos which we can place on YouTube (and amplifying this through social media) and place on the website. Video is a powerful way of improving on-line search rankings.


We would ensure that everyone participating as a case study fully understands when and where their story might be used and a consent form would be signed.


Local media kit


A very effective way of creating momentum is to profile participation by a school with local media. This gives publicity to both Generating Genius and the school. With resources and time being tight, the best way to achieve this is through a template approach.


Firstlight would create a news release to be ‘top and tailed’ with local information and quotes when new schools come on board. Firstlight would manage this process on your behalf and email journalists the news release and supporting materials.


The commitment required by Generating Genius would be to manage approval and go-ahead with the school to approach the local media, and to be available to answer any follow up questions or facilitate interview requests.


Making engagement matter


Two simple, visually sriking ideas could help reinforce the value you bring.


Genius Mark


A kite mark logo could be given to participating schools, universities and corporate partners. This would be provided in a digital format to allow stakeholders to insert this on their websites. It could also go on email signature blocks, stationery, and promotional leaflets.


The Genius Mark would act as a visual cue for everything Generating Genius can achieve. It would reinforce the relationship with those stakeholders, whilst giving them the opportunity to profile their involvement in the programme. Although we don’t want to encourage competitiveness between schools, it could be a nice differentiator – a sense of pride for the school committed to the agenda.


The launch of the Genius Mark would be a media opportunity. We would issue a news release supported by stakeholder quotes (and Government if possible). We would also provide a template letter/email for schools to send to parents.  




We can explain the problem and our achievements towards it in a compelling way using infographic designs. We would distribute these through social media (see below), email to stakeholders at appropriate times (around events or education milestones) and incorporate into materials, such as the media kit and briefing packs.

A more comprehensive infographic is proposed as an Annual Report timed to go out in May/June, end of the school year. This would summarise the work of Generating Genius on one side of A4. Hard copies would be provided as ‘leave-behinds’ and of course, wider distribution through email.


Communicating expertise


Generating Genius has unique and valuable insights. We can raise the profile of the organisation by ‘having views’ on important issues and around events. These would be communicated through influential media.


We still need funding from our donors to increase our impact.


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Organization Information

Generating Genius

Location: South Croydon, Surrey - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Tony Sewell
South croydon, Surrey United Kingdom

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