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gateways grows after ‘explosion’ of school angst

The educational organisation gateways has become an independent larger charity in response to an “explosion” of anxiety among young Jewish people over attending school.

The north-west London-based charity helps 14 to 25-year-olds who have fallen out of mainstream education to achieve qualifications and build confidence.

It provides bespoke courses in a variety of subjects, alongside vocational tracks and pastoral care.

Previously part of the social action programme at the JW3 community centre in Hampstead, gateways now rents a larger self-contained space at Norwood’s Kennedy Leigh Centre in Hendon.

The charity’s new head teacher, Sasha Sharpe, says the move to independence will enable gateways to increase the number of students it can take in and to expand its courses.

Sharpe told the JC: “Since the pandemic, more young people than ever have developed mental health needs, and we are seeing more and more students referred to us. Many pupils who previously were only just hanging on to the cliff edge have now fallen off.

“The amount of anxiety young people have surrounding activities like leaving the house and attending school has generally exploded.”

She added that some of the students were at gateways because they had missed out on mainstream education due to periods of serious illness.

The charity currently has 50 students, including the young man pictured left, enrolled on courses, but there are over 120 registered for this academic year.

The charity offers 114 classes per week — in subjects such as English, maths, cooking and business — but its new premises will allow this number to increase.

A new course in media and computer studies will be starting shortly, said Sharpe.

She said: “Pupils are so excited about the move. The new building has had extensive building works and decorations done, and we have ensured that it feels very homely, with comfortable furniture and rugs.

“Much of the interior is movable and adaptable, depending on our needs.”

gateways currently employs eight permanent staff, with another ten freelance educators, as well as vocational staff, who come from a variety of professional backgrounds.

As the charity grows, Sharpe said that they remained “very mindful” of retaining their personal approach to helping those in need.

“We want to make sure that, as demand for our services increases, we continue to offer specialised, tailored care for each student,” she said.

gateways is the Jewish community’s only education and vocational charity supporting vulnerable young people who have fallen out of mainstream education. It has helped more than 600 pupils in total since its founding in 2008.

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