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Ask Nigel: Your questions answered

Nigel Roberts has worked for Youth for Christ for over 25 years. During this time, he has started and been the Director of three local Youth for Christ Centres, managed YFC's Schools Resources Department, written numerous resources for use in schools and sat on boards which have influenced education within the UK at a national level.

He currently works as a schools consultant for YFC's Local Ministries Department and manages extended schools activities for a family of schools in Leicestershire.

Nigel is probably the most experienced person within Youth for Christ with regards to schools. If you'd like to ask him a question about schools work, please click here. Questions to Nigel and his answers will be shown below, unless you specifically request that your question is kept private.

Some questions that Nigel has already been asked...

I'm keen to work in my local schools, but they are mostly academies with no assemblies and no discreet RE lessons. Ideas?

I understand that often academies deliver RE as part of other subjects (e.g. with citizenship and PSHE) and it can feel like there's not much scope for your involvement. But even though Christianity isn't covered much, it will still be covered. It may be a good point to find out where and how. Approaching any school is difficult but my advice is to go well armed with a portfolio of options and one key question - how can we best serve you? Finding out what the school most needs is vital then when that need is met by yourselves you have the foundation for a really positive relationship. For other things to do - why not offer some of the following (available from YFC): - The Lift the Label materials for use in citizenship or Geography - The Overcoming HIV course for PSHE - Express Community Through Schools - a 6 week interactive module that has gained great reviews across the country and comes with a government endorsement. These are all quality resources that are Christian-based and have clear value to schools. If you have any students facing exclusion in the schools why not opt into the Asdan resources - including YFC's exploRE: the Christian Faith No RE doesn't mean no opportunity.

I have loads of ideas for projects in school but no money – what should I do?

Funding has always been a big issue and in the current climate pressure on existing funds is only going to increase. So we need to be wise and strategic. There is still a lot of money out there but getting it requires time, effort and initiative. Firstly check out two organizations: Grants4schools and schoolfundfinder. Both these organizations run web sites and newsletters that publish monthly updates on what money is out there and who can apply for it. Use them. In the past year for my school I have got over £20,000 in small grants for projects using these sites. Secondly make sure you are applying for funds for projects which are demonstrably needed, you believe in, can deliver and which will give outcomes and impacts that meet the criteria of the fund raiser Thirdly – whenever possible, apply in partnership. There are lots of grants schools can’t apply for but they may well partner with you as a lead applicant to access other funds. The fact of having a strong partnership with a school can only enhance your credibility with funders and convince them of your ability to deliver Fourthly - seek help. If you have a voluntary action group locally they will have access to professional bid writers whose job it is to support the third sector. Don’t be afraid to ask. Fifthly – get your young people to apply. The O2 Think Big programme is designed to reward youth led projects. There are many such funds available and well worth checking out. It is also a great way of involving young people in the provision of their own services Finally don’t give up. Its hard work but perseverance wins through.

I'm being asked to do loads by local schools but don’t have capacity. I don't want to miss opportunities by saying no. Help!

The first thing to say is – what a great problem. You must be doing something right to be in such demand. The second thing to say is that if you are to maintain the kind of quality in your work that has attracted such interest then you must ensure that you don’t over commit. This is a good thing to say to schools and they will understand exactly where you are coming from. You will need to prioritise. In order to do this you should have a very clear grasp of what are the objectives/aims of your ministry and what are your own strengths. Don’t say yes to something for which you don’t have either a vision a passion or a talent. It’s a distraction. Once you have done this explain it to the school. Show them that by allowing you to prioritise you will be doing them better service in the long run. That said one man’s rejected vision is another man’s purpose. At a recent conference with the NYA I heard all the speakers talking about the need for partnership to increase capacity. The NYA are cutting lots of jobs and the only way that they will be able to maintain services is through strategic partnerships with sympathetic organizations. Have a look at your area. Who else works there? Who else shares your vision? Who else could be inspired? There may be other paid workers with whom you could share the load. There is no place for competition in the kingdom and if by increasing capacity we increase opportunity then that must be a good thing.

I have been speaking to a school for months about taking lessons. They always sound keen but never get back to me. What now?

I would create a lesson plan or series of plans with all the interactive innovative stuff that goes with it, and send that in first to see if it prompts any more response. I would also suggest being in the classroom just as an observer to get the feel of things and be an extra pair of hands. That way the teacher can see what kind of worker you are and how well you relate to students. If none of the above work then maybe it's just not the right time and you could try again in a few months' time. Nigel