• Ryan McKay

Edinburgh - Citadel Boy's Club

The Boy’s Club was originally set up as an open youth club targeting boys aged (11-14) and those affected by poverty, at risk of disengaging from education and at risk of antisocial behaviour and offending/reoffending.

The majority of the boys who attended (19) were experiencing a variety of issues including: difficulties at home, disengagement from school, involvement in low level drug taking. Due to these issues and difficulties working alongside their peers, the majority of these boys were not attending any other club at the Citadel.

The aim was to enable staff to build relationships with these hard to reach boys, and divert them from potential path of school exclusion, anti-social behaviour and crime.

What were the benefits of the project?

Challenging behaviour was frequent at the start of the programme, impacting on the ability of staff to build positive relationships. Examples of challenging behaviour included: low grade disruption, physical/verbal aggression towards peers, verbal abuse of staff and defying or disregarding instruction. The large, open format, based on a traditional youth club, with lots of different activities on offer, seemed to make it more challenging for the boys to engage positively with both their peers and staff. Much of this was down to the audience factor with the large group size, encouraging many of the boys to act out negatively. This pressure not to appear weak in front of each other, made it challenging to start meaningful conversations with the boys. Some sessions with a strong visual impact, such as the police workshop on drugs, were quite successful. However, generally, attempts to explore the real issues which the boys were facing in their lives were met with an increase in negative behaviour.

After two terms of attempting to deliver the programme as a traditional open youth club, it was decided for term 3 to adopt a more focused approach, with a single activity (generally a team game or sport) at the start, with time allocated at the end for food and discussions. There was an element of self selection, as some of the boys stopped attending the more focused club, but for a core group of around 10 boys, we witnessed a significant improvement in their behaviour. The smaller group size, and calmer enviroments also supported the promotion of positive relationships between staff and the boys. This new approach worked particularly well for Adrian aged 13 (name anonymised)

Adrian aged 13 was a regular attendee to the Boys club, experiencing a number of setbacks that made his behaviour challenging and made him less likely to speak to staff. This included a chaotic home life and negative engagement in school, alongside pressure from his peers to become involved in anti-social and criminal behaviour. In term 1 although not directly disrespectful towards staff, Adrian would consistently not follow instruction and often became involved in low level behaviours, often due to the audience factor of acting up alongside his friends.

Once in term 3 however, with a reduced group size and new focus on team games, as opposed to individual choice in what activities he engaged in, we observed a dramatic change in Adrian’s behaviour and relationships with staff. This culminated in Adrian disclosing a child protection incident with staff that had occurred in his home. Prior to term 2, with such a large group size and previous negative dynamics, this type of interaction would not have been possible.

Adrian’s comleted his SHANARRI wheel in the final evaluation session. His total score for the Citadel (37 out of 40), compared with both School (15) and Home (14) clearly highlight the positive impact the Boys Club made. At the bottom of the sheet, Adrian wrote ‘Youth club is easier to like feel safe n be happy n no feel like your on your own.’

Moving forward and taking on board the learning we have gained from running the Boys Club, we would recommend that smaller groups with more focused activities would meet the needs of our boys more effectively. In particular, it would maximise the potential for positive relationships to be established with our boys, who typically find it difficult to engage.

Feedback from Young People

How did you hear about Boys Club?

  • At school

  • Ryan and Ruth telling us at school

Why did you get involved?

  • It sounded good

  • Not involved in other clubs

  • Was bored

What did you think the project would involve?

  • Boys only group

  • Be able to do things and have a laugh

  • Eat pizza

What have you done?

  • Chilled out

  • Relaxed

  • Had fun

  • Spoke with police

  • Kickboxing

  • Went to Synergy (gym)

  • Cooking

What do you think of the activities?

  • They were good

  • Too short

(if they were longer, would we focus?)

What will you do after this project?

  • Go to the Gym

  • Stay in the house

  • Sleep

  • Lose friends

  • Be more likely to take drugs and drink alcohol

What have you gained?

  • Confidence

  • Self-esteem

  • Physical strength

  • Ability to work as a team

What has taking part meant to you?

  • Meeting new people

  • Being ‘sound’ with everyone

  • It helped us stay out of trouble

  • Meeting new people

  • Making new friends

If someone asked you about your experience, what would you say?

  • It was good.

#schoolintegrationreintegration #positivechangesinbehaviour #developingpersonalskills

Created by Catch the Light 2019.


This work is commissioned by YouthLink Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government's Cash Back for Communities scheme.