Let them flourish

In her new role at Edge Hill, psychologist Tanya Byron is keen to encourage troubled young people to excel in education

May 29, 2008

A clinical psychologist who has hosted two hit television parenting shows has spoken about her new role as chancellor of Edge Hill University.

Tanya Byron, who starred in the BBC series Little Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways, said that the university was not the first institution to have approached her, but was the one with which she felt the greatest affinity.

Edge Hill, although only awarded university status recently, was established in 1885 as the country's first non-denominational teacher training college for women.

"As a woman for whom education has been so important - my training has given me so many opportunities - it felt like an impressive and important place," Dr Byron said. "I met a lot of students who got where they were with the support of the university when previously the education system might have written them off.

"I remember one young man who had left school, where he'd been labelled as the naughty boy, who was miserable in his job when he was clearly very bright. He heard about Edge Hill through its amazing sporting facilities, and by playing football there he began to recognise that he was actually standing on the university campus, and that was OK - it wasn't just for rich or very educated people."

Dr Byron, who is a graduate of the University of York and University College London, where she did her masters and PhD, has worked in the National Health Service for almost two decades in areas including drug dependency, sexual health, mental health and eating disorders.

Joking that the opportunity to wear the chancellor's colourful robes and "a hilarious hat that looks like a big cowpat" was an added bonus, she said that her work with troubled young people was her real motivation.

"As a clinician, most of my work has been in child protection with 12 to 16-year-olds who are often withdrawn with very low self-esteem. Almost all of them have stories of educational failure, and I have seen how education can allow young people to flourish when it is done in a way that is inclusive and non-judgmental, and when it is in an environment that allows the learner to excel.

"Education is empowerment. It is the answer for all these young people who feel hopeless about their futures and who feel they are wandering aimlessly through life. I'm not talking about education to get a job, but for the sake of understanding what it is to think and reason, and to have your own opinion and to be valued for that.

"A lot of the young people at Edge Hill, even the mature students, have never felt that (until now), and that's what I love about the university."

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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