Banquo Jr is a 14-year-old boy of black ethnicity who lives alone with his mother, Grace. Grace has brought him up on her own since he was small. He has never met his father.
Banquo has had convictions for three separate knife crime incidents within four months, all occurring when he was 13 years old. An incident where he was arrested in school uniform wielding a machete at some older males led to him receiving a 12-month Youth Rehabilitation Order and being excluded from his mainstream school.
To date, Banquo has received community sentences. However, at the time of first contact with SHiFT he was deemed at high risk of receiving a custodial sentence for any future offences. He was gaining a reputation for being a habitual knife carrier, associating with older, influential males who were connected to gangs in the Borough, and engaging in damaging and destructive behaviour in the community, with links to organised crime in surrounding counties. As one member of the Youth Offending Team, who was interviewed as SHiFT’s recent evaluation work put it, "this was a child whose behaviour they would ordinarily expect to see […] escalating”. “His name was involved with things Borough-wide. It was some very serious offending.” Banquo’s mum, Grace, felt that she had lost control of her son and feared that he would be killed.
Banquo’s SHiFT Guide describes him as ‘popping up’ to youth offending services, with a series of concerning behaviour over a relatively short period of time and without any historical contact with other parts of the social care system. This led to some professional anxiety around ‘where he had suddenly come from’. There was significant concern expressed from everyone who had contact with Banquo that his situation was worsening, and fast.
Getting to know Banquo Jr.
Getting to know Banquo has been a joy for his guide Holly. Banquo is an engaging and lively boy. When quiet, he could be perceived as sullen but taking the time and giving him space to express himself results in an animated and articulate child, often presenting with a warm and welcoming smile. Banquo is relatively large for his age and, therefore, could easily be seen as 16 or 17.
Banquo’s experience of the education system has been mixed. There is a lot of past information that shows Banquo’s significant academic potential, and there is no evidence of any learning difficulties, beyond the impact of exclusions, on his opportunity to progress.
Getting alongside and creating the SHiFT difference
From early contact with Banquo, Holly identified Banquo’s ability to reflect and be insightful about what he perceives as ‘the mistakes’ he has made in the past. She believed that Banquo would have some helpful ideas about why he had got into trouble and what could help to change that. Banquo said no one had ever asked him before why he thought it had happened. She saw the relationship they built through these conversations, and the insights Banquo shared, as a great opportunity that they could harness together.
In Holly’s early contact with professionals who were already working with Banquo, she was met with a plethora of negative stories surrounding him and his future, with language such as the likelihood that he would either ‘kill or be killed’. This was often said in Banquo’s presence with little evidence of thought being given to the impact that might have on how he perceived himself. Holly purposefully focused on the need to shift this narrative and to help other professionals in Banquo’s life to join with her, Banquo and his mother to put in place a plan that ensured his success. He needed a small, but cohesive, team to believe in him.
Early work involved spending time with Banquo and his mother, together and separately in numerous settings, including at home, in the park and alongside him in the classroom. Through this, Holly learnt that Banquo had a real passion for football, alongside his academic ambition to get a full suite of GCSEs – an aspiration that could not be pursued within the alterative provision school he attended because of his exclusion. Holly believed that with the right support, Banquo could achieve his educational aspirations and was determined to help him back into mainstream education to enable this.
Holly canvassed the Education Panel with tenacity to give him the opportunity to have a fresh start – a tenacity which, in interview with SHiFT’s Research and Evaluation Lead, Banquo described as ‘magic’. She set challenges for Banquo to help him develop the muscle needed to succeed, stretching him with additional homework and spending time with him over the Christmas holidays supporting him where needed. This commitment ignited determination in Banquo. She used this evidence of Banquo going above and beyond and achieving with education colleagues, alongside all of the information and evidence she ensured was shared about Banquo’s positive behaviour since July 2021. Banquo’s Guide supported Banquo to write to the education panel and advocate for himself, and she worked closely alongside Grace to attend meetings and ensure her voice was heard.
Alongside this, Holly delivered on her promise to him and found a suitable local football team that he could join. On numerous occasions she picked him and took him there until he felt confident to do it himself and had developed a relationship with the team and coach. Chatting to and from these sessions became a fantastic opportunity for Holly and Banquo to talk through his day, work through any challenges, and revisit his plans. Although there were many difficult moments throughout this time, Banquo’s contact with the gang in which he was involved has dissipated fast – they were not able to deliver what his Guide could. He had found other passions, in learning and football, bolstered by someone who believes in him. As Banquo described it in interview, with SHiFT’s Research and Evaluation Lead, he carried knives partly because of the ‘thrill’. ‘So where do you get your thrills from now?’, she asked. ‘Football’, Banquo answered.
Holly worked tirelessly to encourage those around him to believe in him too, genuinely like him and see a positive future. She showed them how understanding the hook for change for each child on each day can keep the momentum going and build a trusting relationship. Her work alongside Grace has enabled Banquo to re-establish a relationship with his mum and regain her trust.
Banquo’s request to return to mainstream school was received positively following the joint advocacy and aspiration-led work of Banquo, his mum and Banquo’s Guide. Banquo has just finished his first term back in mainstream school where he is studying for 8 GCSEs and is a member of the school football team. His Guide visits him in school on a weekly basis to talk through any issues he is having and to touch base with school staff and nip any emerging concerns or needs in the bud. The six-week review meeting has just been held and the school praised Banquo highly for how he has settled in. Banquo has fully achieved his targets of ‘being safe’ and ‘being respectful’ and has only minor improvements to make in punctuality to lessons to fully achieve his target of ‘being ready for learning’. Banquo was also praised for being proactive in asking for help to meet his academic needs: he has approached the Maths department to ask for some additional support and this will now be actioned by the school.
When Holly started working with Banquo, five services were involved in his life. He is now being supported only by his Guide, the Youth Offending Service and his Charlton Athletics Mentor. On the strength of Holly’s work with Banquo, social care support has been stepped down – Banquo was being assessed as a Child In Need but colleagues concluded that there was no role for them because SHiFT and the Youth Offending Service were fulfilling those needs effectively. The intensity of support from the Youth Offending Service has now also decreased, initially to twice a week and now to once a week, some of which are virtual meetings or calls because of Banquo’s strengths and progress. At the end of this reporting period, Banquo assessed four of the seven domains of his life reflected in SHiFT’s Exploration Tool as excellent (5), and three as very good (4). This represents an increase across five domains when compared to his reporting in the last quarter. In short, Banquo is flourishing.
Banquo’s work with Holly is helping him to feel more empowered to advocate for his rights as a child and communicate through official processes to challenge authority status quo. He has gained confidence from this that, with the right support and attitude, he can achieve anything. Most importantly, this work between Banquo and Holly is helping him to reset the foundations of his life and feel that he is not defined by his mistakes and can build a better and positive future.