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04 October 2016

Huw Ellis, TLG

Huw Ellis works for TLG who help children struggling in school stay in or return to education through partnering with local churches. Here he tells us about his role as regional leader for early intervention in Wales.

Tell me a little bit about TLG and how you got involved.

The TLG vision is to support children who find school difficult. It started by partnering with churches to set up education centres that are registered schools to help children who have been excluded or are at the risk of exclusion in schools. The aim is to get them back into school and to leave school with some qualifications and some hope.

I’d been a head teacher for 22 years until September 2015 when I saw the job advert for a regional leader in Wales to support early intervention through TLG.

Early intervention is just great. I’d have loved when I was a head teacher for someone to come along and offer four or five volunteers to invest in the kids who were struggling. Quite often when it was more complex the child would be referred to counselling or something similar, but it was only for six or eight weeks so when I heard that TLG early intervention was for an hour a week every week during term time for year, that was just great. In that time we have a real chance to get to know the youngsters, get to know them, be a part of their lives and they get to rely on us.

What’s your role? 

I’m early intervention regional leader for Wales; it’s a dual role of trying to encourage churches to partner with us and spread the word about TLG, and then also to support the centres that are already set up. At present in Wales there are seven centres in partner churches so I help with supporting the coordinator from the church with any new training or resources and with pastoral support. We meet to do forums each term to chat about frustrations and successes that they’re having.

What’s the biggest challenge faces children who are struggling?

Kids with a range of issues. They mostly come from difficulties at home that might result in poor behaviour or anxiety or lack of self-esteem. It might be children who are finding school difficult, finding friendships difficult in school, finding school too much sometimes. And there may be bullying in school as well, or a child has gone through a death in the family and is struggling through that point in time. An hour a week is enough – quite often they’ve never had someone who’ll turn up just for them week in week out.

What would you say has been your biggest highlight and your biggest challenge?

The biggest highlight has been travelling around Wales seeing the number of churches who are doing great things. That’s been an encouragement because my head’s been in education up until now and a few local, small churches so hearing stories of what God is doing across Wales has been massively encouraging.

The challenge is trying to grow it now! We know it works so the challenge is to get the churches to come on board. Usually the churches that are interested are the busy churches so actually they’re saying we can’t find the people or we’ve got too much on, and in a sense this is just another initiative. But for us it’s really important and we want to share the vision so people can catch the vision and see it grow.

What would you say to churches to invite them to take part?

I’d just say that this is win-win. There are quite a number of people in churches who can afford an hour a week and who are looking for something to do. This is quite straightforward, it’s not intimidating in any way – the coaching happens in school so you’re covered by the schools health and safety and child protection procedures and you can just go into the school to offer the package to the school. This is something schools really want so it’s something you can really bless your community with.

My church here in rural mid-Wales has become a centre. We’ve had a grant from Cinnamon Network that has helped us massively so I’m also a coordinator at our centre and we’ve just started coaching some children from our local catchment area. It’s been great for our church to have found that we can support our local schools and be seen more in the local community. We’ve got eight trained members from a congregation of 30 so that’s nearly a third of people doing it! It’s been a real encouragement.

How can people be praying for the work of TLG, and specifically in Wales?

Generally the prayer would be to see the work grow, so praying for the work of the partnerships together with churches to see them catch the vision for how they can support youngsters who are struggling so that they can see lives transformed. We’re hearing countless stories of lives being transformed by people investing time in children and supporting them through prayer.

For Wales, we’re trying to get the materials translated so we’re looking for some funding for that so that we can go into the many Welsh schools and chapels that are there, but that we can’t get to because the materials aren’t in Welsh.

Pray for each child that comes into the early intervention centres, that they would be touched by that and see the hope and that there’s a better way for them.