Former pupils of a north Belfast-based alternative education project run by Extern have gathered together for a special celebration event to mark its 25th year in operation. 

The Pathways Project, which supports young people aged 14-16 across Belfast, first started providing lessons in 1998 to students facing difficulties with conventional school or classroom settings. 

Since then it has supported over 750 young people with learning in core subjects such as Maths, English and ICT up to GCSE level, as well as preparing them for the next steps in their lives, such as further training, education or employment. 

 To mark 25 years of the project’s success, a special celebration event was held last weekend at Girdwood Hub in north Belfast. The all-day event was attended by hundreds of people, including former pupils of Pathways, as well as their families and friends. Activities included face-painting, bouncy castles, mini golf and go-karting, among others, with guests being given the opportunity to catch up with staff and share their stories of success since graduating from the programme. 

Project manager Ceri O’Reilly, who has worked with Pathways for over 20 years, said: “Since first opening its doors a quarter of a century ago, Pathways has changed the lives of young people who have been unable to access mainstream education. So many of our young graduates have gone on to enjoy success in their lives thanks to the support they have been offered through the programme and the hard work and dedication of our wonderful staff team. 

“It was great to see so many at our celebration event where we were able to catch up on what they are doing now, and for them to share their experiences with those who have followed them into the programme.” 

The Pathways project is funded by the Education Authority and dual-registered with the young person’s home school. Young people can be referred for a number of reasons, such as attendance concerns, social and emotional challenges or because they might benefit from a specialist small group learning environment. 

In recent years, the Pathways project has also linked in with another Extern programme, Moving Forward, Moving On, which offers ongoing support with finding employment or training and gaining qualifications. Recently the MFMO project was announced as one of a number of projects across Northern Ireland which is being funded by the UK Government under the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.