Mentoring is the way to get ahead

10th October 1997 at 01:00
Open letters, like rhetorical questions, do not usually expect a reply, but Alan Evans's open letter to me on mentoring (TES, 19 September) is too thoughtful and constructive to pass without a brief comment.

I warmly agree with much that he says. Mentoring by business and the wider community is already an important strand in our strategy for helping pupils achieve.

In the Excellence in Schools White Paper, we said we would support the National Mentoring Network and its members to raise the profile and increase the availability of mentoring initiatives to pupils, and we have recently taken practical steps towards fulfilling that commitment.

I expect one of the tangible benefits from these mentoring activities to be an increase in the proportion of pupils from groups who are under-represented in HE gaining qualifications which will give them access to it.

A number of mentoring intiatives are already active in FE and HE. For example, the charity Community Service Volunteers operates the Learning Together scheme under which higher education students act as tutors in schools and FE colleges.

Last year more than 5,000 students from nearly every university and higher education college in the UK took part, helping pupils in nearly 2,000 schools. My Department has helped this and other projects. So have many HE institutions and businesses.

There are, of course, many competing demands on resources, but in considering the options for encouraging wider participation I will keep the potential of mentoring very much in mind. I hope that others will not overlook the facilities and opportunites that already exist.

TESSA BLACKSTONE

Department for Education and Employment Sanctuary Buildings Great Smith Street London SW1P 3BT

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