In 2009, more than 6,500 children and young people were permanently excluded from school, a disproportionate number of which are children eligible for free school meals. Studies also show that excluded students are up to twice as likely to commit crimes and will ultimately cost taxpayers around 63,000 each.

The START programme at Hammersmith's Lyric Theatre provides alternative education for teenagers who risk exclusion from school or who have dropped out altogether. It combines individual tuition with arts workshops, helping students like Spencer to re-engage with their learning and gain key qualifications. Although many arrive at START with almost no reading or numeracy skills, 80% leave with nationally recognised qualifications a fresh start and a dramatic transformation.

The grant recipient

The Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith produces world class contemporary theatre. It also has a professional and respected in-house education team dedicated to providing high quality creative learning programmes for young people.

The START programme

What it aims to do

  • re-engage young people in learning
  • raise their educational achievement
  • give them access to further education

How it works

START is a short term education project for teenagers from West London. The young people who take part are at risk of being excluded or are no longer attending school. The programme runs for six weeks (24 hours a week) and consists of:

  • drama and arts workshops - designed to build self confidence and self esteem
  • one to one basic skills sessions - detailed work with a specialist tutor

START is delivered by artists, literacy specialists and peer mentors and is managed by Lyric's education team.


  • upon finishing the programme, 64% of the students went into employment, education or training; a further 28% were integrated into positive activities with the Lyric
  • over 60% of the students gained a City & Guilds qualification
  • one student, who had dropped out of 2 previous START programmes, completed the programme with 99% attendance - she achieved a level 2 City and Guilds literacy qualification and has now done a placement with the Lyric as a trainee youth worker

The funding

SHINE has made a grant to fund part of the delivery costs for this project. Additional funding is being provided by other trusts and foundations.

Funding: 183,000 to Lyric, over six years (2008-14)

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"The Lyric is a unique organisation where the work of our Creative Learning team is valued as highly as the work on our stages. Young people are the heart of all we do."

Director, Lyric

"START was a positive reason for getting out of the area in which I lived where there aren't many opportunities."

START Graduate

"I left school at 16 with one GCSE. I knew START was something I wanted to do. I am now 19, I have been given opportunities with different theatres and organisations, I'm being guided into a career that I believe I will succeed in and later this year I will be doing a diploma."

START Graduate