AN integrated counselling scheme has scored a success by turning around the lives of a group of ''difficult'' junior students.
The students, once weak in their school work and with a reputation for misbehaviour, are now showing more interest in studies and displaying a willingness to talk with and confide in family members after joining a scheme run by a youth agency in co-operation with their school and families.
The students are also showing greater confidence in themselves and, in general, demonstrate a much more positive outlook.
Social workers said the success of the programme highlighted the importance of co-operation among those surrounding and working with the child, which include family, school and child and youth centres.
The one-year counselling scheme for junior secondary school students, organised by the Breakthrough Counselling Centre last academic year, aims at helping both young people and their parents to lead a ''positive'' life.
Ten Form 1 and 2 students from Lai Chack Middle School were chosen for the programme. The children had been observed to be lagging in their class work, playing truant and not getting along with their classmates.
The programme involved individual counselling, group work, tutoring, exercise training, visits to homes for the elderly and selling flags for charity.
Parents had a share in the activities by forming an association so they could actively help with the children's school work.
The teachers formed a special student concern committee, and the school set up closer links with other supportive services like child and youth centres in the district. By the end of the course, seven of the 10 students showed signs of marked improvement in every way.
Five in particular had benefitted in studies and conduct, the best student scoring an average of 4.14 marks in the second semester, an improvement of 17.6 per cent over the previous semester's 3.52 marks.
The students said the programme had heightened the group's interest in school work, given them a clear goal to work for, and afforded them a sense of accomplishment.
Breakthrough social worker Mr Alex Lee Tak-shing said the students had become ''independent, responsible, confident, self-disciplined and active after joining the programme''.
''The scheme shows that parental participation is crucial to a child's progress,'' Mr Lee said.
''Most of the participants, although seen as 'bad' students at the beginning, had made big strides in academic work, conduct, family relationships, and personal growth. An important factor is to help them establish an identity with their teachers and parents.'' One observation made during the programme was that fathers tended to be ''more passive'' than mothers in helping their children, with few fathers taking part in the scheme.