Exploring the hidden curriculum


Another year and another cohort of young people have completed ‘Find your fire’, Doorsteps’ ten-month programme for helping young people at risk of disengaging identify what they are good at, what they feel passionately about, to attach value to those things, and help them look at ways of developing in them.

Sarah is 16.

She started attending ‘Find your fire’ as a young person, and after her second time taking part in the project decided to come back next year as a young leader.

She says: “From both perspectives of taking part and leading, I feel that this project is hugely beneficial to those who take part. Personally, this project has helped me overcome many social fears that I am now comfortable with, and I am aware of how to handle them.

“From my perspective, I have also seen the effect it has had on other young people, and how it has changed them in a rewarding way. For example, a young person that myself and the other youth workers worked with usually has difficulty concentrating and staying on task, but while the project progressed, he has become more patient and able to engage.

“The ‘Find your fire’ project is an amazing thing to be a part of that teaches you a hidden curriculum that is not taught in school.”

What is this ‘hidden curriculum’ Sarah speaks of? It’s things like positive communication, positive life choices, resilience, safeguarding of self and others through protective behaviours, and awareness of support structures and services.

What we provide through ‘Find your fire’ is specialists in adolescent behaviour who have that capacity to invest richly in young people as individuals.

Robbie is in Year 10.

He is neurodivergent and spent the first ‘Find your fire’ session with his hood over his face, unable to engage with anybody because he was so overwhelmed by being in a new place and with new people.

Over the past ten months, we have seen him blossom! We have seen his confidence and aspiration grow by 50 per cent from our system of measuring impact. But more importantly than this, we have seen for ourselves how much he has grown, first and foremost in how he now meets our eyes.

He feels safe, secure, he knows that the youth work team are 100 per cent for him and it’s provided the perfect opportunity and circumstances to have a go, to test how brave he can be, and to be inspired by himself. We were blown away by his peer education project on what day-to-day life is like when you have autism.

His mum said to us, “This group is amazing for young people and you guys do so much for them. Thank you for the work you are doing with them, it is really appreciated.”

There were ten young people we worked closely with during the project. (We were in contact with 20 over the year, but drop-off is to be expected because of both the kinds of young people we work with and the fact that youth participation is completely voluntary, so we don’t force them to be somewhere they don’t want to be!)

We’ve had so many wonderful times with them – from team-building fun at an outward bounds activity centre, to bowling, to laser quest, to escape rooms (as for the latter, I would like to never go inside them again!) We’ve shared meals together, shared life updates, shared laughter. There have been challenges, for where there are teenagers, there are challenges. But we have all persevered.

‘Find your fire’ is not about producing the finished article, because there is no such thing. ‘Find your fire’ is about week in, week out showing up to tell some fantastic and complicated and precious young people that they are valuable, that they are worthy of our time and attention, and that who they are and what they care about matters.

We give them the key to unlock their potential and their dreams and, with a heavy heart, we wave them goodbye at the end. (After having fun shooting each other with lasers and then eating allllllll the food, of course!)


Photos: Brooke Cagle, Timothy Choy