Responses from Youth Professionals and others
Bridget Long, Deputy Head of Lainsmead Primary School
As deputy head teacher of a large primary school in Swindon, I have really
realised the benefits of the Tranquillity Zone experience for children. The Tranquillity Zone creates a place to feel safe and calm. The children appear to transform as they enter it, both in mind and through their body language.
The Tranquillity Zone gives children an opportunity to relax and listen as well as to visualise. The stories told are open to their own interpretation and the children can relate them to their own way. They are positive, powerful and uplifting.
The programme allows the children to develop more self-confidence in a caring and nurturing environment. The discussions help to develop their ability to overcome challenges and to realise that we have choices in life. Through interesting and exciting scenarios, the children become aware of how their choices affect themselves and others.
Some year 5 children, who were involved in the programme last summer, have gone on to create a calm corner in their own class. The structure of this is very similar to that of the Tranquillity Zone. The decision to do this was brought up in class council and it shows how the children are using their positive experiencesand are keen to share such a positive environment with other members of their class.
I believe that the Tranquillity and Discovery Zone has had a positive impact on children's behaviour and attitudes at my school. It is an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives. They really are made to feel that there are gems within them.
I believe that the Tranquillity and Discovery Zone is very powerful and can make a difference to children's lives. It would be my aim for the Tranquillity Zone and Discovery Zone experience to be available to all children.
Farhang Tahzib, Director of Public Health, Worthing.
Writes about a paper he presented on Tranquillity Zones and the SYEP to a public health conference in Eastbourne.
"There is growing interest in exploring creative health promoting environments and analysis of the components of such interventions contributing to health and well-being. This paper will describe experiences with development of Tranquillity Zones and preliminary findings of evaluation of the Swindon Young People Empowerment Programme (SYEP).
Swindon Tranquillity Zones started in 1997 as a community based service project based at the local Health Hydro sponsored by the Swindon Baha’i community. They are described as a place where participants can relax and reflect in a specially prepared tranquil environment and a programme of words and music.
The SYEP, developed in January 2001 in partnership with other agencies, uses Tranquillity Zone approach coupled with a specially developed educational programme for groups of challenging youth from the area, with each programme running over eight-week periods for various cohorts of youth from the area.
Over 3200 people (written in 2003) have attended the Swindon Tranquillity Zones at the Health Hydro and they have also been set up at the Borough Council, various local businesses, hospitals, schools and other settings. Results suggest that the participants have found the experience positive, refreshing, and useful particularly in terms of managing stress. A number of youth suggested feeling more valued and that the sessions have assisted them control anger, making “better choices” and “controlling stress.”
Tranquillity Zones offer a useful and innovative option as part of programmes aiming to create healthy environments and well-being.
Helen Smith, Student Advisor, Catholic Comprehensive School
I am writing to express my thanks for the tremendous effort you and the team put into the latest group from St Joseph's School. Although some of the students left the programme at various stages, I am certain that they all benefited in some way, no matter how small.
Young people transform like a chrysalis, so that not only were they confident enough to speak in front of their peers but also in front of adult strangers. This shows an amazing amount of progress for three of the students in particular, for whom English is their second language.
For another girl, whose literacy skills are poor, it was great to hear her read a poem, clearly and using words she had never seen before. She became a part of a team where she has often been an outsider.
Two boys have had problems with their social skills but I have seen them become more considerate group members, able to participate in activities with people they may not have otherwise worked with. They were easily able to take on the role of ‘hosts’ for our final presentation.
Another teenager has blossomed and although she has always appeared to be the more confident one of the group, she has had her own self-esteem issues. The programme has given her inspiration to believe in herself and to write songs and poems about her experiences.
Once again, on behalf of the school, many thanks and I look forward to working with you all again in the future.
Tom Wilkes, Community Deputy Head, Hreod Parkway School, Swindon
Hreod Parkway has worked with the Swindon Young People Empowerment Programme for nearly two years now. After the initial contact we were convinced of the potential benefit of their work to our pupils.
To this end we were delighted, 14 months ago (written in 2005), to release a teaching space on our northern campus and allow the creation of a satellite ‘Tranquillity Room’.
The work of the Swindon Young People Empowerment Programme through the Tranquillity and Discovery Zones has made a tremendous difference to the lives of approximately 15% of the pupils at the school.
Hreod Parkway has many pupils who are disadvantaged, vulnerable or ‘at risk’ in different ways. The Tranquillity and Discovery Zones have provided an important additional dimension to our support for such pupils. Through our enrichment programme, during tutorial time or as part of a wider literacy or emotional intelligence programme during the holidays, the Tranquillity room has proved to be an important, if not essential, service for many of our young people.
More recently, pilot work has begun to show potential benefits for parents with the first joint parent and pupil sessions in the Tranquillity room proved to be a fascinating experience.
We look forward to a third fruitful year of working with the Swindon Young People Empowerment Programme and we are already making plans to develop such activities on our new school campus from 2006.
Dr Ben Schmidt, Swindon Ten Learning Network, February 2007
The Tranquility/Discovery Zone approach has one great lesson to teach: that moral choices and inner happiness go hand in hand. Children are given a glimpse – and, what is more: an actual experience - of this fundamental truth: that doing the right thing will over time give one a lasting feeling of goodness, and that, conversely, feeling good inside one will be more likely to do the right thing.
As the Swindon Ten Learning Network we have worked with the Swindon Youth Empowerment Programme because we find that low self-esteem is a root cause for many other negativities that can manifest in life at school, such as low aspirations, low achievement, truancy, bullying, aggressive behaviour, or disengagement. What it comes down to is this: that it is very difficult to learn well and behave well when you are feeling down and out.
The enthusiastic, passionate belief in the power of goodness in each and every child that permeates every aspect of the SYEP is contagious: it convinces children (and staff) that they are truly ‘mines rich in gems of inestimable value’ – and that everyone else is, too. I find it hard to see how anything but good could come from that.
Tony Woolman, Area Youth Worker for Frome (Somerset County Youth Service)
I have worked for over thirty years now in the public sector, in many different settings with young people and for over ten years with addictions. I am now back in a youth service environment - and it is very challenging. I am faced with many rude and disaffected and threatening young adults. I find the short time I spend in the Tranquillity Zone probably the most engaging and productive thing I do in my entire working week.
If I had a choice as a caring and committed member of my own community, I would wish to do nothing else right now than develop this initiative. Young people are not getting any experience that has any spiritual values (not religious - but more aligned to the concept of citizenship). I find the delivery of the Tranquillity Programme is a fundamental building block of personal inter-relationships. I am really challenged to make the same positive judgment on most of the work I have to engage in as an area youth worker. If we could do more of this, we may at least begin to make some real change in people - our young people, in our society. It is that profound.
Swindon's Principal Education Psychologist and Head of Education Support Services at the borough council, commissioned a research paper on SYEP, undertaken by two educational psychologists in training at Bristol University. Although only a small scale research project, and with the proviso that '...these initial positive indications of the programme need more systematic and thorough investigation', their evaluation of SYEP is:
"This research indicates that the SYEP provided a safe, non-academic environment in which the children learnt about themselves, their feelings and shared valuable experiences with their peers. This appears to have provided psychological and behavioural responses that have diminished the potential physical, emotional psychological stressful events in their lives and appears to have enabled them to cope better in school". (A Research Commission Evaluating the Impact of SYEP on Pupil's Self-Esteem and Pupil Behaviour, by Nadine Barnham and Mary Stanley-Duke, Bristol University)
Roderick Bluh, Swindon Borough Council Leader
We cannot ignore the human spirit in dealing with the challenges and problems facing our communities today. No-one is taking care of this side of life and what is happening in the Tranquillity Zone and Discovery Zone needs to happen in the rest of society. It's important that here in Swindon we have a programme for developing the human spirit, that isn't connected to any religious rituals or traditions, and is already benefiting hundreds of young people. I hope this will become more widely available for all the children and young people in our schools."