Good start for coach trials

They are neither career advisers nor teachers. They can be careers service staff, youth workers, social workers, counsellors or teaching assistants.

"How do you define a learning coach?" said one. "Let's just say there's far more to the job than learning and far more to it than coaching."

Wales is piloting learning coaches in 10 areas as part of reforms to the 14-19 curriculum designed to improve support for learners - for example, when making decisions about what courses to follow.

In Denbighshire, where the pilot aims to develop a team of 12 part-time learning coaches, co-ordinator John Gambles said the strength of the scheme was the input from a wide cross-section of professionals.

"It is really refreshing to have a group of people from different professions working together for young people," he said.

"We have schools, colleges, Careers Wales and the youth service working alongside each other for the same end.

"The pilot has generated a lot of interest and excitement and we have had a lot of good feedback.

"Many of the young people we work with are very much on the outside looking in and the last thing they want is to go back into schools or colleges which have not worked for them in the past."

Mr Gambles, a deputy headteacher at Ysgol Dinas Bran, Llangollen, said the existence of the Dee Valley Partnership - a group aimed at widening participation in lifelong learning - had benefited from the launch of the pilot as the infrastructure was already in place.

"A learning coach can mean different things for different young people. It is a role that is still evolving," he added.

"For example, one young lad needed help in physically getting to the army careers office for an interview. It was arranged for someone to get him to the office and go with him to the interview."

His views on partnership working are echoed by Kath Durbin, who is in charge of the pilot in Bridgend, south Wales. There, teaching and non-teaching staff from local secondary schools, including Ysgol Gyfun Llanhari in Pontyclun, the nearest Welsh-medium school, are working with Bridgend college.

"Supporting young people and helping them to manage their own learning and achieve their full potential is a major priority in our quest to create a culture of lifelong learning in the borough," said Ms Durbin.

Chris Powles, Pembrokeshire's learning coach, has been limited - simply by the vast area he covers - to working with 21 students.

But he says feedback has been positive: "Each student feels as though they have an extra option to help them solve any problems that arise and they are all very receptive of the work being done."

He found schools have different ideas about the learning coach's role and what support they want.

At Sir Thomas Picton, Haverfordwest, he is supporting a large group of teenagers on a motor vehicle course at Pembrokeshire college. At The Greenhill school, Tenby, his work includes delivering anger management and motivational courses to a disruptive student on a one-to-one basis.

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