MP gets a handle on Open Doors project

September 29, 2008 12:00 AM

Rathbone Assistant Centre Manager Andrew Baxter, Paul Rowen MP and Rathbone trainee Danny Burke outside the training centre during the MP's visit.Rochdale MP Paul Rowen recently learned about a scheme that has supported some of Rochdale's most vulnerable teenagers and helped them to turn their lives around.

Run by Dane Street charity Rathbone, the Open Doors education and engagement programme has worked with more than a thousand 14-19-year-olds since it opened in summer 2000. Some 73% of those students have progressed on to college, further training or work - which is a remarkable feat given that a quarter of those young people rarely attended school.

"Open Doors is flexible, gives the young people choices and meets their needs" said Andrew Baxter, Senior Training Adviser at Rathbone. "The trainees learn and develop important academic skills at their own pace and build-up or improve their social skills and self-confidence."

Commenting, Paul Rowen said: "I was very pleased to visit the Open Doors project and meet some of the young people who have benefitted from this excellent project. The fact that 73% of their 'graduates' have gone onto college, further training or work is an excellent indication of the success of this superb project. Here in Rochdale this project has led to a remarkable turnaround in so many young people's lives. I cannot commend this more and long may it continue making a valuable difference."

Danny Burke from Greave has certainly been buoyed by Open Doors. Exclusion from school meant that he couldn't complete his exams and realise his dream of joining the Army. Hearing about the project through a friend, Danny came down to Rathbone, knocked on the door - and found himself a future.

"The tutors take an interest and work with you to make the best decisions," said Danny. "Being in small groups with people who are going through the same problems as you, also helps."

Having completed his qualifications at the project, Danny continued his progression on the Entry to Employment programme at the Rathbone Centre on St James' Place in Rochdale. From there, he went on to college and is now looking to join the Army. Keen to do his bit "for Queen and Country"; Danny, who turned 18 on the day of Mr Rowen's visit, also wanted his MP to know how Open Doors can "make the difference to any kid who has chosen the wrong path."

Originally funded by the Neighbourhood Support Fund, Open Doors is backed by the local Connexions Service along with the Youth Offending Team, the Early Break Agency and others. It supports Rochdale Council's drive to reduce the amount of 14 to 19-year-olds who are not in education, work or training.

Andrew Baxter hopes that Mr Rowen's visit will now bolster the project's profile nationally and help secure its long-term future within the community. He added: "The project would like to acknowledge the services and partnerships locally that have supported Open Doors and thank the parents, guardians and above all the many remarkable young people who have progressed because of it.

"Open Doors has been able to open a lot of doors for young people locally and in many cases has helped change their futures. We now trust that those in power will continue to support it."