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New centre for troubled youngsters opens in Barking

PUBLISHED: 17:30 09 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:03 12 December 2016

Sir William Atkinson speaking at Barking Therapeutic Hub earlier today

Sir William Atkinson speaking at Barking Therapeutic Hub earlier today

gus campbell photography

An ex-headteacher sent to remedial class as a child officially opened a centre transforming the lives of the borough’s most vulnerable young people.

Centre chief executive Thomas Keaney, Mayor Eileen Keller and Sir William in front of the plaqueCentre chief executive Thomas Keaney, Mayor Eileen Keller and Sir William in front of the plaque

Along with the Mayor of Barking and Dagenham, Eileen Keller, Sir William Atkinson, once described as the country’s most successful headteacher, unveiled a plaque at Barking Therapeutic Hub in Queen’s Road today.

Taking in youngsters who have fallen through the system, the hub’s service, known as Create, employs its own teachers, therapists and social workers to help students improve their prospects and learn how to deal with the challenges in their lives.

In a room packed with parents, staff and pupils, Sir William described how at the age of nine he was mistakenly put in a class of 11-year-olds and as a result of not keeping up with his older classmates came to believe he was “thick”.

Finishing with one ‘O’ level, a young Sir William chose to stay on at school after seeing his brother fail to get jobs because of his skin colour.

After meeting a teacher who inspired him to aim high, Jamaican-born Sir William succeeded, going on to join the profession himself.

“You never know what people can achieve,” he said. “You can’t pick winners and losers. You have to treat everybody as a winner.

“I believe whatever people are they’ve got the capacity to be bigger and better than they think they are.”

Praising the new centre, which is part of the not-for-profit TCES Group and has space for 15 pupils, he added: “This organisation excels in its approach. When you work with challenging young people only the best will do.”

Describing the difference the centre had made to her, a 16-year-old ex-student cried as she said: “I would not be here today without Create. From being in secondary and not being able to achieve a lot, everything went to plan. The staff got me through a lot. It’s been the best experience of my life.”

Head of service Colette Ferns said: “It’s so humbling and rewarding to work with these children. Today’s opening has been very successful.”


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