The importance of an open-door policy.

Reflecting on my own experiences;

Growing up, my own involvement in dance classes was interrupted and often put on hold due to the expectations held by the professionals in my local schools and clubs. Like most dance schools, across the country, they all had criteria that needed to be met. Whether it be of ability or financial status, usually there’s a factor that young people must share….a tick box almost, of needed elements to be welcomed into the team. Tick boxes that I often did not fill.

It wasn’t until I found a local dance crew within my youth club, age 15, that these expectations faded. Anyone was welcome, any skillset, any ability, and any background. It was my own personal experience, which then as I got older and ventured into becoming a professional, led me to understand the real value of an open-door policy, and how providing such enriching and unique opportunities within a youth work setting, enhance and develop young people’s experiences, who before may not have been given access to such involvement.

Was it just me?

Through my dissertation study; (A study which investigates the impact of delivering dance through youth work programmes), I had the opportunity to explore further as to the real impact of such activities being offered outside of the typical dance school settings, and explore if my own experiences were shared by the young people we worked with…

“I had a friend that goes to G-Expressions, so she told me about it, because I was going to a different dance school before, but I quit as I didn’t like it- it wasn’t for me and I didn’t feel any good, so then she told me about her dance group…so obviously I joined, and I really liked it so I stayed…I definitely feel like I’ve been welcomed more, and I feel like more part of the group. It’s changed me in a better way because I feel like I’m a better dancer now because we’re all seen as equal, and we support one another even if when you’re given a dance, and someone finds it hard… that’s ok. There’s no expectations to get it perfect.

It’s a different vibe to other places I had been”.

Turns out they were.

The National Youth Work Strategy for Wales (2019, p. 12) states, “The aim, is to make Wales a great place for young people… and with that… all young people should have access to opportunities which enhance informal learning, whereby they build upon healthy relationships.”

“It has helped me feel more comfortable. I feel really happy and better in myself after every session.”

“I make friends easier”

“I like the environment and the family feel to the company… with dancers and tutors”

“I’ve felt really welcomed, by everyone… from the first day I came”

For young people we work with across South Wales, some who come from deprived and lower-class backgrounds, the opportunities to participate in dance classes, compete at competition level against other dancers from across the country, perform in showcases, gain qualifications in which they can go onto teach themselves… it’s possible that these opportunities would never have become available to them, had our provision held any of the standard dance school expectations.

For that reason, through my research and observation in daily practice, I believe that through organisations such as G-Expressions, we are succeeding in reaching the young people that are often missed, young people who many find unreachable…..

and who often need us the most.

For more information around open access youth work, and the importance of being inclusive; Please see the reading list below for recommended literature sources;