Dad quits ‘rat race’ to get disadvantaged young people on Right Track

THE KEYS TO SUCCESS -- Stuart ready to move in at Top Valley Community Centre -- DISPIC NHUD11-2524-2
THE KEYS TO SUCCESS -- Stuart ready to move in at Top Valley Community Centre -- DISPIC NHUD11-2524-2

A BIG-hearted dad from Hucknall, who has turned his back on the corporate ‘rat-race’, is the driving force behind an organisation to help disadvantaged young people get their lives back on track.

Stuart Bell, of Watnall Road, launched Right Track Social Enterprise in 2009 in a bid to leave a “lasting legacy”.

The 43-year-old father-of-two was living a comfortable life with a well-paid job as a national sales manager at the time.

But he decided he wanted to make a difference, so Right Track was born — from an office space above his garage.

The aim is to stoke the fires of confidence, self-esteem and ambition in ten-to-25-year-olds who are struggling in school and home or have gone off the rails and been left on “the scrapheap“.

So far, Right Track has helped more than 400 young people and is looking to support 2,000 within five years.

Now the not-for-profit organisation has taken a huge step towards achieving that target by taking the keys to new headquarters in Top Valley.

More than £140,000 has been splashed on buying the former Top Valley Community Centre and youth club on Knights Close from Nottingham City Council at a property auction.

Said Stuart: “I got to a stage in my life when I asked myself: what have I done? Where’s my mark on the world?

“There are a lot of young people falling through the net but their potential can be unleashed if we can just find the right way to unlock it.”

The emphasis of Right Track is games-based learning. It plays to Stuart’s strengths because he has always been involved in sport and is a coach for the England under-20 rugby union team.

Right Track, which was launched with the help of minimal outside funding, uses formal sports, such as football or rugby, to Wii and Xbox computer games to engage with the young people it works with.

It is about promoting social interaction and understanding rules of play that can then become rules for life.

Although some of those on the programme are tearaways, Stuart explains at the outset that they are responsible for setting the rules they must work by.

Those who join Right Track might have dropped out of formal education or been referred for help through their schools.

The organisation works with the city council and Notts County Council and also has links with the National Church Of England Academy and Holgate Comprehensive School in Hucknall and Bulwell Academy.

So far, Right Track, which has 12 permanent staff, has achieved a 95% success-rate, which is based on the number of those taking part in the programme achieving a nationally-recognised qualification.

“Eighty per cent of those we work with are broken,” said Stuart, who grew up in Bulwell, went to the town’s former Henry Mellish Comprehensive School and struggled to pass exams on account of having a form of dyslexia.

“Our job is to try and re-engage with the young people we are trying to help.

“People say we are rewarding children who are bad. But that’s not the case.

“If you have someone who cannot read and write, they won’t do well in mainstream education. They get put in a classroom and don’t get the support.

“Couple that with children who do not know whether they have a bed at home or where their next hot meal is coming from. Some are subjected to verbal or physical abuse.

“That is where we come in. There is a lot of work to do but we are determined to make it a success and help as many as we can.

“We had one child who didn’t go to school for three years. He is now studying A-level politics. It is about getting them to have belief and self-worth.”

Right Track works under four key principles of respect, responsibility, progression and enjoyment.

Its mission statement is: ‘We will enthuse young people to learn by using effective games-based education that promotes self-learning and a CAN DO attitude.

The new centre in Top Valley is seen as key to achieving the ambitions.

Half of the building will be a learning academy where it will prepare users for work, further education and also apprenticeships.

It will also include a gym that will be free for unemployed people to use — provided they join the Right Track job club.

Parts of the centre will also be available for hire by local community groups.