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National Literacy Trust launches interview series to inspire excluded young people through literacy

As part of the National Literacy Trust’s Game Changers programme, which boosts the reading skills and life chances of excluded young people aged 11-14 through the power of football, the charity has today launched Game Changers: True Stories 

The video series features 10-minute interviews with inspiring role models about their experiences of exclusion and how literacy played an important part in their journeys to success.

The series will be published weekly from Monday 28 September on Zone In, the National Literacy Trust’s digital platform to support the literacy of young people aged 13+.  

The aim is to help young people who have been excluded or are at risk of exclusion to understand that they have choices in their futures, as interviewees reflect on their personal stories, experiences and how literacy played a role in getting them to where they are today. 

Teachers can also download free, reading-focussed worksheets accompanying each video. Each worksheet aims to show excluded students that inspirational, relatable, stories can be found in texts. 

The series is hosted by Jude Yawson, who was excluded from mainstream education at the age of 13 after an altercation with a teacher. While Jude was attending a pupil referral unit, he took comfort in writing, and would contribute to philosophy forums and write and make movies on the computer. He discovered writing as a way to channel and articulate his experiences.  

After achieving nine GCSEs despite his exclusion, Jude went on to complete A-levels, a degree in philosophy, a Masters in cultural studies and is now a successful writer and poet. His achievements include editing and co-authoring Stormzy’s 2018 memoir Rise up: The #Merky Story So Far, published by Penguin Random House imprint #Merky Books. 

Jude Yawson said: Working with the National Literacy Trust has allowed me to have some honest conversations about representation and the different journeys which inspired others toward change; which I think will entertain a lot of youths that feel stuck. Knowing the capacity in which we can change, I hope these short interviews inspire students and their teachers to adapt their lens on potentiality.” 

Over the next three weeks, the series will publish inspiring interviews with: 

  • Derek Owusu, winner of the Desmond Elliott prize for his debut novel, That Reminds Me (#Merky Books), and founder of the Mostly Lit podcast 
  • Nile Ranger, footballer who has played for Newcastle United, Swindon Town, Blackpool and Southend United 
  • Shauna O’Briain aka MC Angel, spoken word artist, hip hop MC and author of Moments of Significance: A Memoir (OWN IT!) 

Game Changers, funded by BT Supporters Club and supported by 15 football clubs across the English Football League, aims to motivate young people to read and overcome barriers to educational success.  

The Game Changers: True Stories series is the latest initiative from the programme to use the inspirational power of role models to help excluded young people understand the importance of literacy and re-imagine their futures. 

Kyle Turakhia, Game Changers project manager, said: “This project is all about showing students who have experienced exclusion that their story is still only just beginning. We’ve found students connect with and take inspiration from people who they can relate to, those who have been in their shoes.  

We have a brilliant line up of interviewees who explain in their own words how they have gone on to achieve great things in a career and personal capacity and how skills you learn in school such as reading, writing and communication can help you succeed.” 

Young people who are excluded from mainstream education have some of the poorest outcomes in education, health and life. Only 1% of excluded students achieve good passes in English and maths and excluded young people are 10 times more likely to experience mental health problems than their peers. 

Game Changers aims to turn this around by leveraging excluded young people’s interest in football to provide a vital route into reading, which research shows can boost young people’s educational attainment and mental wellbeing. 93% of teachers surveyed after the first term of delivering the programme said that the practical football sessions helped to engage students with the learning content. 

To watch the series trailer, featuring Jude Yawson visiting his old pupil referral unit click here.

Teachers can also find supporting resources linked to each video here. 

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