A WORKER who helped dramatically reduce exclusion rates among pupils at a Levenmouth school has won a Local Hero award.
Kelly Owens has helped young people at Kirkland High School in Methil for just over a year, and in that time exclusions have fallen by a staggering 75 per cent.
Last week, at a glittering ceremony at the Rothes Halls in Glenrothes, the delighted 24-year-old took to the stage to pick up a well-earned Kingdom FM’s Local Hero award for “Best Community Group.”
The competition had attracted around 3,000 entries which were eventually whittled down to winners in 15 categories.
Speaking to the Mail afterwards, Kelly – who lives in Tillicoultry – talked about her role within the Inclusion Unit at Kirkland High School and her reaction to winning the award.
“I knew I had been nominated and it was really touching because a young person here actually made the nomination but, on the night itself, there were two other really good people up for the award and I thought ‘ no chance!’”
“Everyone here at Kirkland is ecstatic.”
Kelly, who was nominated alongside her counterpart Kirsty Yeoman at Lochgelly High School, is a big promoter of the power of group work.
The ultimate aim is to ensure pupils remain in school and avoid being excluded.
She said: “It has a very positive effect on young people and they discuss a wide range of issues such as relationships, anger, crime and sexual health.”
Such is the success of the pilot project, it is currently being adopted by other schools in other Scottish regions.
Without a doubt, the service was needed in Levenmouth, explained Kelly.
“The challenges here are out of this world,” she said.
“ Young people can have a fixed mindset, seeing themselves limited by living in what they see as a terrible place and they have no motivation to change.
“Many of the young people we work with come from deprived backgrounds, some with drug and alcohol issues, in the family and some may even be in care.”
But Kelly, who has a background in commmunity education, says it is amazing to see how, by simply listening to pupils as adults, their outlook can be transformed.
“Teachers have targets and just don’t have the time to speak to each pupil,” she commented.
“Because we’re not teachers, a barrier is dropped right away.”
Other Levenmouth winners included former councillor Harry Blyth who picked up the Provost’s Award for his work for East Fife Football Club and Maggie’s Fife.
Also local “Flying Fifers” Thomas Bremner and Sandy Cunningham won the Fundraiser of the Year category.