Tucked alongside its more colourful neighbours, Bagel and Shake and Cherry Pye, it’s easy to ignore, but The Aspire Academy and Tuition Centre on Drayton Bridge Road is quietly transforming lives.
Founder, Hamzah Muhammad, a former artist, has spent more than twenty years in education, a maths specialist he’s worked at West London FE colleges and is the main force behind the Aspire philosophy of individual and specialised care.
Michael Sylvester and Hamzah Muhammad of Aspire2pass
Students at the centre are taught in small (6-1) groups, enabling tutors to really get to know each of the learners who seek additional help for a variety of reasons. Some have English as a second language, others specific problems like dyslexia, dyscalculia, adhd or apergers, and an increasing number are finding mainstream education simply failing to meet their needs.
Hamzah says with curriculums continually changing and classes in schools generally too large, teachers just haven’t got the time to spend on each student.
Aspire, focuses on finding the key to discovering how best to help. He says:
‘’ We treat every learner as special; they’re all individuals when they come to us and I’m not just saying that. It was the ethos, the mantra I was taught.
‘’We had one learner who, when she first came here, hardly spoke and her school had predicted grade Ds, she was with us 2 years and as time went by we saw her change, gaining more and more confidence. Her final results were 3 A*s in English, Maths and Science – she now has plans to be an astrophysicist.’’
Whilst getting top grades is important, for others gaining a foundation level or even just overcoming personal issues is acknowledged as success at Aspire.
It was one of the reasons local businessman Michael Sylvester (from Sylvester’s Hair salon on The Broadway) became involved with the centre.
Having worked in juvenile offending units he became aware of a disproportionate number of black children falling foul of the system and says he wanted to do something to try and help break the cycle.
He believes that when school or home life is troubled, gangs and street life become more attractive and will step in to fill the void; unless this can be prevented may lead to a life of criminality.
He says ‘’ I felt these units were just making them worse so wanted us to try and do something positive and meeting Hamzah soon realised we had the same idea.
‘’The Aspire Academy is like a third avenue. What they haven’t got elsewhere we try and provide here. Some kids who may have been thrown out of school actually want to come in and spend time with us, so mentoring and guiding is crucial.
‘’We have seen tough lads here full of anger and attitude, they’ve often been written off by their schools but we always see their potential and nurture it and they turn around and that’s the joy .
‘’When they realise that you genuinely care, have confidence in them and want them to learn, they pick up on that and however obstinate and resistant they may be at the start, they change.
‘’So we have to make education engaging, exciting and enjoyable, fun and practical. Not all kids are academic, but all kids have potential, and we try and focus on the areas that will help them succeed in the shortest space of time. They all have talent and Aspire seeks to harness that.’’
Aspire has charitable status (1175485) and aims to keep tuition costs as low as possible to enable the most needy to benefit.
Community support is welcome and an appeal has been made for anyone who can offer any voluntary help or donate equipment.
Aspire provides all types of additional educational support, full details can be found on their website