The Family Support Service’s Mystery Shopper

This article was written by a young person called Izabella.


My name is Izabella and I volunteered to be a mystery shopper for a “How to Thrive at School” course by the Family Support Service.
I offered to be a mystery shopper because I wanted to make sure that this course is truly valuable for young people.
From my findings, it is incredibly supportive!

About the “How To… Thrive at School” course

This course provides young people with skills to apply to life at school. It was beneficial as it taught us not to just “live” at school, but to thrive.
It covered revision techniques, relationships advice, and strategies to cope with peer pressure and bullying, all of which are fundamental skills to learn to flourish in a school environment.
This course was made up of six x 1-hour sessions on Thursday evenings.

The “How To… Thrive At School” course came from young people! The young people at our Bucks Youth Summit 2023 asked for a course that can help with school friendship ‘dramas’, dealing with exam stress and being more organised. Because it is young people based, it works for them.

This is not the only course that The Family Support provide. They have many more like “How to Build Confidence and Self-Esteem”.
You can find information about the courses and sign up on the Buckinghamshire Council’s website.

Visit Buckinghamshire Council’s Help for Young People page


photo of revision clock made in the course

What was good?

  • The facilitators were really nice! I would recommend them to do it again.
  • The facilitators were consistent each session, which meant we could build a relationship with them and didn’t need to feel anxious about having a new facilitator every week.
  • They made the sessions really interactive, even with cameras off. The facilitators asked us to do things like go and find something or make something. It got everyone talking with each other, growing our confidence.
  • I noticed that some young people who were only speaking via the chat function at the beginning, after a few lessons and a little push of encouragement, started talking with the microphone, and even put their camera on. To me, this reflects the comfortable atmosphere, the relationships that were developing with the facilitators, and the confidence built by young attendees over time.
  • The facilitators invited the young people to share problems they were facing to get support. This made the course more personalised and useful to each person. And it wasn’t just the facilitators helping, everyone gave their ideas and participated as a team!
  • The facilitators shared practical advice on revision techniques and ways to spend your free time effectively. These useful skills and techniques were given significance and focus.
  • For the last session, most people weren’t feeling well (It was that time of the year!) so the facilitators rescheduled. This meant we all were able to conclude the course with a proper goodbye.
  • The course itself was well structured and planned.
  • It was easy to sign up – All you had to do was pop an email with a few crucial details, and then a few days before the first day of this course they sent a confirmation email to make sure we were still participating. (If not, they could give another young person an opportunity to, so they can help as many young people as possible.)
  • The course also fosters responsibility – the young attendees are committing to come every Thursday, login, and participate.
  • As well as coming back with the knowledge of how to thrive at school, you gain a little bit of confidence about being able to talk to someone and form relationships with people you have not met before. These are applicable skills that you can use wherever you go, whether it’s in school or life. It’s not just the knowledge you’re gaining, it’s skills as well.
photo of notes made during the course

What could have been better?

  • Time was a bit restricted for the topic we were learning about. Overall, we covered lots of content, but it would be more beneficial to have more time to go into more depth and have longer conversations as a team about it.
  • Another little issue was that some of the young people attending weren’t consistent. That is, however, the responsibility of the young person. I have suggested that the facilitators could check in with attendees or parents weekly to make sure they come to most of the sessions.


Would you recommend the course?

Absolutely! I was a secret shopper, but I still came out of each lesson with at least one piece of valuable information that I can apply in everyday life. I loved it so much, that I have tried promoting it at my school by putting posters around and asking the teachers to put it in our daily newsletter for the students.

I would absolutely recommend these courses to any young person considering it or a parent who thinks it would benefit your child.


Do you like being a mystery shopper?

Being a mystery shopper was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to be one. It opens up your perspective and gives you a different point of view!

By inviting me to be a mystery shopper for their course, the Family Support Service are showing how much they care about the perspectives of young people. They are striving to make a wonderful course even better!

How did we listen, act and respond?


Having done something similar before, I got in touch and offered to act as a mystery shopper on a Family Support Service course.
Jane, a youth worker at the Family Support Service, suggested that I act as a mystery shopper for the “How To Thrive At School” course because it is new – they wanted feedback from a young person to check it works well for young people.

I signed up to the course, attended, and afterwards, Jane arranged a virtual meeting with me to listen to my feedback about it.
We discussed everything I have mentioned in this blog – what went well that we should keep the same, and ways to improve the course even further.
Jane emphasised how much the voice of young people mean to her and her team, and she was very pleased to have my opinion.


Jane said she would take my feedback back to the team and amend the course to fit the changes I have mentioned.
This blog is also an opportunity given to me to convey my voice to other young people and encourage them to raise theirs to and make the change!


I am in constant touch with Jane. She has let me know what amendments were made and when they will be implemented.
This makes me feel amazing – knowing my voice was listened to on behalf of other young people, and has been acted upon to make facilities available to us better for us!

Screenshot of an email from Jane to Family Support Service colleagues, sharing the mystery shopper's findings

Here you can see an email that Jane sent to colleagues in the Family Support Service, sharing my feedback, and below you can read some quotes from Jane and her colleagues about my involvement in this project.


Quote from Jane:

“Izy’s input is so valuable! It is very important for us to gain young people’s feedback about our courses as we want to ensure that they are relevant, supportive and based on Buck’s young people’s  needs.  As a Youth Voice Champion I really value the secret shopper process feedback that we have had from young people as it has informed recent changes that we have made to the courses.”

Thank you!

Thank you for reading this blog, I hope you enjoyed it!
If you are interested in being a mystery shopper like me, please email!

Mystery Shopper I

This blog was written by Izabella (Izi).
Vice-Chair of Youth Voice Executive Committee and a member of Article 12 Mental Health Youth Forum.

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