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Helping young people have self-belief – BTS Spark

Helping young people have self-belief – BTS Spark

The Foundation’s newest partnership programme, the Jack Petchey Spark programme, has been inspired directly by Sir Jack himself and his go-getting, positive approach to life.  His personal motto, ‘If you think you can, you can!’ is the ethos behind all of the work of the Jack Petchey Foundation, but how can we help young people to have the same sort of self-belief, determination and resourcefulness that enabled Sir Jack to succeed through all the challenges he has faced?

This is the goal of the Spark Programme.  It has been developed by BTS Spark, the not-for-profit education practice of global leadership business, BTS. BTS Spark has taken core elements of their leadership curriculum that have helped over 50,000 leaders in schools and many well-known companies, to be at their best and most resourceful, and adapted these to engage and benefit young people.

BTS Spark is a valued partner of the Foundation, so as part of our 21st birthday, we dedicated this post to them to showcase what they do.

Denise Barrows, Head of BTS Spark, explains that “the Spark Programme is all about helping young people to build a sense of personal and collective agency, which is increasingly seen as an important element in equipping them for future success”. The OECD in its work on the future of education and skills, defines student agency as “the capacity to set a goal, reflect and act responsibly to effect change. It is about acting rather than being acted upon; shaping rather than being shaped: and making responsible decisions and choices.”

There are three key stages to the programme, which is delivered in schools – ‘Finding My Spark’; ‘Keeping My Spark’ and ‘Sharing My Spark’. ‘Finding My Spark’ is about helping young people to get clear on what matters to them and how this can keep them motivated. ‘Keeping My Spark’ is about personal resourcefulness, being able to manage your emotional state, overcoming limiting beliefs and bouncing back from setbacks.  The final stage, ‘Sharing My Spark’ focuses on supporting young people to develop a sense of responsibility and a set of personal commitments to influence their own future, others, events and circumstances for the better.

In 2019 four London schools and one sixth form college participated in the pilot Spark programme, which focused on stage two, building personal resourcefulness. Around 325 students, aged 13 to 17, took part, with over three quarters reporting that they had achieved key indicators of increased resourcefulness, such as being able to notice when they were triggered and to recognise the negative self-talk that can prevent them being at their best.  Participants identified a range of strategies they can use in these situations and learned a key step by step process to regain a more balanced and resourceful state.  They told us that some of the most useful things they learned were “that not everything in life is going to go to plan but that you must never give up”; “to make sure I look at situations differently”;  “how to calm down in difficult situations”; “that there are ways to stop you reacting negatively to things”; “it is important to motivate yourself and drive yourself to be able to achieve”; and “don’t let other people or anything get in the way of believing in yourself”.

The full three stage Spark Programme, comprising three half day workshops, with teacher-led sessions to help embed the learning in between, was just a week away from launching in our phase two schools when the Covid-19 lockdown hit, so this has now been postponed to the autumn term 2020.  In the meantime, those interested in gaining an insight into the programme can download a set of home learning resources for young people from the Foundation’s dedicated website page here.

Although designed for young people to be able to work through by themselves, these would also make great resources for PSHE lessons in school or youth groups.  Schools interested in taking part in the Jack Petchey Spark Programme should contact



Spark Programme participants with their facilitator at Harris Academy Crystal Palace


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