A new challenge for Wokingham’s teenagers
Earlier this year, Thames Valley Police sent a letter to parents of secondary school students across Wokingham. They reported:
“We have seen a rise in anti-social behaviour across the area involving young people, and many of the issues appear to be linked to drug and alcohol misuse. The drug use appears to be based around cannabis and an increased use of the drug Xanax.”
Drug networks are increasingly targeting teenagers in the borough, especially those who are lonely or vulnerable, without good support networks or unpractised at making good decisions. They offer a sense of friendship and belonging – or the excitement of making money – to get them involved in drug use, running or dealing.
Illegal drugs are becoming more available in smaller towns like those in Berkshire, and gangs can purposely target young teenagers because they are easily influenced and less likely to be noticed by police. It can be hard for young people to escape from this world once they get involved.
That’s why we’re running a new project in Wokingham schools to help young people steer clear. Soulscape’s Director, Jane, explains: “Talking to schools earlier in 2018, it became clear that our young people and their parents need help on this issue. So, working in partnership with the schools, parents, and other youth agencies, we designed our new project Give and Take to look at the reasons why teenagers end up taking or selling drugs, and to equip them with the confidence and resilience to resist this pressure.”
A creative approach to staying safe
Give and Take is running this autumn term in local primary and secondary schools. We’re working with Year 5 (9-10 year-olds) and Year 8 (12-13 year-olds). Rather than somebody simply standing up to give a talk about drugs, we’re doing things the creative Soulscape way!
Give and Take involves an interactive approach, with some talented and passionate creative arts students from Reading College helping to design and deliver the sessions. They’re using film-making, animation, dance, music, theatre and the visual arts to explore positive decision-making, resisting pressure and – with Year 8 – how addiction affects people’s lives. These young adults form the college will also be positive role models for the school students.
Jane says, “We hope that by working with children from primary age, we can help prevent them becoming vulnerable to this sort of exploitation. Instead of becoming trapped in destructive addictions, we want to see all our young people living confident, positive lives.”