Mentoring paves the way to university

15th March 2013 at 00:00
Glasgow scheme helps young people to raise their educational aspirations

A mentoring programme for pupils in one of Glasgow's secondary schools has seen the number going on to higher education leap from five to 30 in four years.

The intergenerational mentoring project at Springburn Academy, run by the University of Strathclyde and funded by Glasgow City Council, has also seen pupils' exam results improve significantly.

Adults with particular skills and expertise volunteer to mentor pupils, on a one-to-one basis, who are keen to enter university, a profession or highly-skilled employment but may not have access to the necessary knowledge and advice.

Liz Ervine, headteacher of Springburn Academy, told TESS that 21 per cent of her pupils now go on to higher education; 10 years ago, the number was so small that they were not registered on statistical tables.

The role of a mentor covers everything from private tuition to helping pupils complete CVs and write personal statements for university applications. They supply references for part-time jobs, and help them liaise with a careers officer.

By virtue of their own expertise, they are able to open doors that would otherwise be shut to young people living in an area where 61 per cent live in the poorest 15 per cent of Scotland.

Alastair Wilson, of Strathclyde's school of education, who runs the mentoring programme, cites the case of one pupil at Springburn who was keen to study medicine. He was given a mentor who was a former dean of the medical faculty.

"His glass just went from empty to full. The mentor got him focused, helped him do the UKCAT tests (for clinical aptitude), and got him into clinical placements," Mr Wilson said.

There are now plans to extend the programme over a three-year period to six to eight targeted schools in Glasgow's most deprived areas.

Strathcylde's student mentors show the way forward

Student mentors, currently in their third year at Strathclyde Business School, are leading a widening access programme for pupils at four Glasgow secondaries - Bannerman High, St Andrew's Secondary, Rosshall Academy and Cleveden Secondary.

Under the auspices of the Innovative Routes to Learning unit at the school of education at the University of Strathclyde, the business students adapted a leadership module from their own course to raise pupils' awareness of higher education and inspire them to be more ambitious.

Amie Louden, one of the business students involved, explained that the undergraduates organised a day-long event on campus for 45 final-year pupils. It included a lecture, tutorial-style discussions, a "scavenger hunt" which led pupils to discover information about the university and aspects of student life.

Now, the S6 pupils are running similar events for S2-3 pupils in their own schools, with the support of the business students.

"It has really opened my eyes to progression rates in Scotland - only 36 per cent. I didn't come from a family which had gone to higher education and realised that a lot of people were the same," Amie said.

"It's also taught me leadership skills, as well as public speaking, organisational and communication skills."

elizabeth.buie@tess.co.uk.

Original headline: Mentoring project paves the way to university

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