Pathways to a brighter future
Published: 19 Feb 2016
Do you think you have what it takes to make a real difference to a young person’s life? Could you spare an hour a week to transform totally the future of a disadvantaged teenager?
If so, then you need to get in touch with Befriend a Child and sign up for their new and exciting mentoring in education programme, which is being launched in partnership with MCR Pathways Foundation.
MCR Pathways was founded by Scottish entrepreneur Iain MacRitchie and for many years has provided adult mentors for disadvantaged older children and young people, many of whom have experience of the care system. It is currently provided in seven schools in Glasgow, but a one-year plan was recently announced to roll the initiative out to every school in Scotland’s largest city.
Befriend a Child will now use the MCR Pathways’ approach to work with children aged 13-18 who have previously been befriended or have been identified as being at risk of exclusion from school to re-engage and support these young people on their pathway into further education, university or vocational training.
I spoke to Jackie Hothersall, chief executive of Befriend a Child, and Katie Thomson, who is the charity’s MCR co-ordinator, to find out more about this interesting initiative.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR A MENTORING PROGRAMME COME FROM?
I joined Befriend a Child in June last year when we started to design and develop our strategic plan which included the creation of a mentoring programme. In consultation with key stakeholders, including national grant and trust bodies, I was introduced to Dr Iain MacRitchie and the MCR programme. The evaluation of outcomes of the support provided by MCR mentors was overwhelmingly impressive and in partnership with Iain we included the MCR approach within our own forward planning.
SO WHAT HAPPENED THEN?
Jackie: At Befriend a Child we are wholly dependent on public and corporate donors as well as trusts and grants, therefore delivering a service using the MCR approach was contingent on us finding new income. Initially we wanted to set up a pilot programme in order to evaluate the use of the Glasgow based approach in the north-east of Scotland and we were fortunate to be awarded funding through the Crerar Trust and our partners at Thainstone House Hotel, Inverurie and a small trust fund in Peterhead.
This has allowed us to launch our new mentoring programme in Inverurie and Peterhead academies where we were advised that a number of disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people are at a high risk of school exclusion.
As part of the consultation process we took a group of young people away on a residential activity weekend when they contributed towards and were integral in development of the new MCR programme.
DID YOU THINK THERE WAS A NEED FOR A MENTORING SCHEME IN SCHOOLS SPECIFICALLY?
Befriend a Child has been supporting children aged 4 – 12, through volunteering befriending for over 40 years. Over the past five years that age limit has been extended to 18 year olds as a result of the identified need for us to develop volunteering befriending and mentoring support in the community and schools with a more structured and goal orientated programme.
Whilst we have concentrated on schools in Inverurie and Peterhead, throughout the consultation process we have identified a need across Aberdeenshire and also Aberdeen, to provide more support for children and young people at risk of exclusion as a result of a number of impact factors including parental and their own drug and alcohol misuse, domestic violence, mental ill-health, abuse
CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THE CHILDREN WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THIS PROGRAMME?
Teachers will identify the children and young people who will most benefit from this programme. Initially we envisage that we will be providing mentoring support for disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people who are at risk of school exclusion and/or those who have been excluded
WHAT’S BEEN THE REACTION TO THE PROGRAMME?
Throughout the consultation process we have found the extent of the support for the MCR programme to be overwhelming. The MCR approach, which has been evaluated over seven years, provides weekly support for children and young people who would otherwise struggle to identify a positive pathway on leaving school.
HOW WERE THE TWO SCHOOLS CHOSEN FOR THE PILOT?
The choice of schools was determined by two key factors – income and identified need. The evaluation of outcomes from the pilot as well as additional funding and partnership working will enable us to determine the future growth and development of the MCR programme in the North.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE MENTOR?
Katie: Within the pilot programme we are looking to recruit five mentors in each academy. Each mentor is asked to commit to meeting a child/young person for at least one hour every week for a minimum of one year. They would meet in the school environment or local community space between 9am and 3pm, Monday – Friday, including school holidays.
The focus of the meetings is education, however the first few months, as with any new relationship, will be about getting to know each other. Even before they begin to discuss school and the future, it’s about building up their confidence and looking at things they are good at and encouraging them to do more of that.
AND WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR TO BE A MENTOR?
We ask for mentors to have a basic understanding of the importance of education and how it can help young people in later life. Other than that we hope to see a wide range of people coming forward who are interested in working with and supporting disadvantaged children and young people to develop a pathway which will enable them to achieve their full potential as confident and independent young adults.
Those interested in finding out more about becoming a mentor are being asked to get in touch with Katie Thomson - firstname.lastname@example.org or 01224 210060.