Graduate mentor scheme set to support another 1,400 pupils in South Yorkshire

20th January 2022

More than 1,400 GCSE and A-level pupils from across South Yorkshire are set to receive extra support with their studies and future career choices thanks to new funding for a Sheffield Hallam University-led mentoring programme.

The GROW Mentoring Programme received more than £500k funding through the Government’s Community Renewal Fund as part of bids submitted by Sheffield City Council and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council. 

The programme also received £200,000 funding from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYCMA) and Sheffield Hallam University. 

The GROW Mentoring programme pairs graduate mentors with Y10-13 pupils in schools and colleges to offer one-to-one support to help them focus on their exams, achieve personal goals and plan for their future. 

Launched in July 2020 in response to the pandemic, the programme has supported more than 1,000 pupils across the region in the last academic year. It has also provided more than 50 graduates with paid employment and valuable work experience in a challenging job market. 

The funding will provide one-to-one support to another 1,400 pupils across 50 schools and colleges. The support will be delivered by 125 specially trained mentors. 

New graduate mentors will start an intensive training programme this month before being deployed with schools to support pupils. 

The schools will decide which pupils take part in the programme based on who they think will benefit most and who have been most affected by the disruption as a result of school and college closures. 

The funding will also enable graduate mentors to work with young people with special educational needs as well as those aged 16-24 classed as NEET (not in education, employment or training) for the first time.  

An adapted programme for 66 young people with special educational needs in Sheffield and 24 young people not in education, employment or training in Barnsley will start to be delivered from April.  

GROW programme director, Sue O’Brien, said: “The GROW programme has impacted positively on so many young people recovering from the effects of their disrupted education as a result of the pandemic. 

“Young people in schools and colleges are empowered to make plans for their future education and careers and graduates have the opportunity to increase their own employability and give something back to their local communities.

“This additional funding enables us to provide this opportunity for so many more young people across our region.”

Expanding the GROW programme is one of Sheffield Hallam’s commitments to the region as part of its Civic University Agreement. As part of the University’s pledge to support education and skills, it will work with schools and partner agencies to ensure more pupils in South Yorkshire benefit from the programme. 

Paul Crook, head teacher at Penistone Grammar School, said: “The GROW project really supported our students in their preparation for internal assessment, revision strategies and an increase in motivation.  The relationships they built with their Sheffield Hallam mentors were simply exceptional.”

According to a recent report by Public First, children in England have lost an average of 115 school days over the past eighteen months with disruption likely to continue for at least another year. 

The majority of teachers, parents and young people interviewed for the report said the pandemic has had a significant impact on children and young people’s mental health, and fixing it should be a key priority for schools and government. 

The GROW programme has a significant focus on overall wellbeing. Consultation with schools suggests, wellbeing support, combined with motivating pupils to engage with studies, is vital in helping young people to achieve their potential and make the right choices for their future.
Evidence shows that support based around a mentor relationship, particularly a mentor who can act as a role model a pupil can relate to, can be extremely effective.

Evaluation of the programme found an increase in engagement by all pupils who took part. Schools reported increased motivation, improved behaviour, and improved relationships with their peers and with staff, better attendance. 

Pupils spoken to as part of the evaluation said they had a much clearer view of their plans for the future and appreciation of the space to discuss these plans with a relatable adult.  They also said they had a clearer idea of where their future careers lie and how they would be able to achieve that.

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