Warwick Mansell reports
Sixth-formers are being paid up to pound;10 an hour to help GCSE pupils in England with their revision for this summer's exams.
In a pound;100,000 trial, funded by the Specialist Schools Trust, some teenagers will get pound;250 to act as "e-mentors", answering questions from younger students in online revision forums.
The Government-approved project is being launched for 1,200 GCSE pupils from 38 schools this month. It involves sixth-formers joining teachers and undergraduates to advise Year 11 pupils.
The mentors set up and supervise real-time discussions in secure chatrooms covering exam topics in subjects including English, maths, science and general study skills.
Matthew Donohue, 16, who is studying for five AS-levels at Greensward college in Brockley, Essex, is being paid pound;250 for around two hours'
work a week for 12 to 14 weeks. This equates to around pound;10 an hour and compares well with the minimum wage for 17-year-olds, pound;3 an hour.
He will help students from five schools revise for their English GCSE. He expects to stimulate discussions on modern poetry for English literature. Having achieved an A in last year's exams, he said he would have useful tips.
He said he would have been willing to do the work without a financial incentive. He added: "For students of 15 or 16, there is something very attractive about being able to just log on and get on with your revision when you get home. It is not going to replace traditional revision, but it will be a fantastic tool."
The schools have selected the pupils to be helped - mainly from borderline CD grade students.
When ministers announced their support for the scheme last year, they were crticised by teachers' leaders, who said that it was unreasonable to expect staff to be on call at evenings and weekends to answer pupils' queries.
But the trust says that all staff mentors were volunteers and were being paid the equivalent of their wages per hour. Newly-qualified teachers are paid pound;25 an hour.
Tracey Bevan, a Spanish and French teacher at Wildern secondary, Southampton, is co-ordinating her school's support for 27 pupils. She said:
"No one is being forced to do it. Some of these students are not the most motivated. If offering revision through a chat-room will help their motivation, it's surely worth looking at."
Paul Hynes, who is co-ordinating the scheme for the trust, said: "Instead of students earning pound;5 an hour working in a supermarket, they can earn more than that while helping other pupils and re-inforcing their own studies. We think it's very positive."