This project focused on young people living in the most disadvantaged ares of Glasgow who were interested in entering higher education but who may not have had access to the necessary knowledge and advice in order to realise there aspiration.
Project Duration: 1st February 2011—Ongoing
Due to recent funding from the Big Lottery this project is now ongoing however for the purpose of this case study we shall concentrate on the initial project.
The percentage of young people from Glasgow’s poorest areas that succeed in entering higher education is extremely low. A snapshot of eight typical schools confirms this; 20.9% of Glasgow school leavers enter Higher Education (HE) versus a national figure of 37.3% (SLDR, 2012). This attainment gap represents a waste of young people’s talent; and contributes to a persistent lack of social mobility. Research within the University of Strathclyde indicates that these young people have narrow social networks with little access to others with experience of higher education, the professions or highly skilled employment.
A range of research now indicates that volunteer mentoring, particularly with supportive older adults, can have a positive impact on young people and their educational development. The project drew on volunteer adult mentors to support, challenge, and inspire these young people as they envisage and plan their futures.
Mentors were drawn from a range of different channels but there was a focus on recruiting experienced, retired professionals from education, science, engineering and business with knowledge of HE and relevant career pathways. These mentors committed to weekly or fortnightly, one-to-one sessions which provided academic, social and personal support for the young people as they prepared for their higher examinations and planed their future careers.
The real value of the project arrived when the mentors and young people became friends and formed mutually supportive relationships that last.
The project aimed to:
- To provide young people living in socially disadvantaged ares of Glasgow with the knowledge and support necessary for their admission to and success in higher education
- To expand and strengthen the social networks which young people can draw upon to enhance their personal, social and educational growth
- To increase the overall number of young people from participating schools in disadvantaged ares of Glasgow that progress into higher education and particularly those highly competitive degree courses that lead into the professions
- Providing opportunities for older adults to engage with young people and contribute to the overall project development
70 young people from S5 and S6 were identified by their school as capable of taking 5 Highers in their S5 year
55 mentors were recruited from the University of Strathclyde’s alumni, University of Strathclyde’s Lifelong Learning Centre, other organisations and word of mouth.
Mentors and pupils received initial introductions to the project and were then introduced to each other. Ongoing meetings took place between the research team, mentors and pupils to support their mentoring relationships. Pupils and mentors meet together at the school during term time either weekly or fortnightly. School staff worked in partnership with the research team to support the mentoring programme. Regular coffee mornings were also organised so that mentors could meet and discuss their experiences.
Benefits for the Community
The mentoring programme enabled and still enables young people to meet and get to know older people from outside their local communities that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to meet and get to know. As the project is now growing we are keen to look at ways to encourage a more community based dimension to the project enabling young people and mentors to meet and engage with each other within their own school and between schools creating wider networks of support.
Benefits for the Younger People
At the beginning of the project we knew that young people needed very practical support in terms of their academic work and the process of applying to university. As the project progressed, we have come to understand the value of a more mentoring based relationship offering not just support in these practical areas but, more importantly, very personal encouragement and emotional support at what can be a stressful and confusing time for young people as they plan their futures. From their mentoring relationship comes a lot of the knowledge, understanding and confidence they need to progress.
Benefits for the Older People
We discovered the value that many of our volunteers experience in their role as mentor. Many have told us how rewarding and exciting they have found the project and how they have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know and support a young person.
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow City Council & Big Lottery
The project was designed as research and development, which meant that it was researched by the University team as it developed. This enabled the project to examine how it was working and make adjustments when necessary to its overall design and to learn and act on its occasional mistakes!
The project was a partnership with a research team at the University of Strathclyde and the research has so far identified that:
• Mentors provide young people with a vital source of support and information in terms of planning their future HE courses and careers. They offer career specific knowledge to which the young people have otherwise very limited access.
• This is particularly evident in the ways in which mentors have helped young people prepare for HE course application – this work has included planning work experience, UKCAT test preparation and specific training for interviews.
• Mentors are crucial in providing time and space for young people to think through new ideas and plan alternative courses as/when circumstances change throughout the school year.
• Mentors also provide young people with a valuable source of immediate practical support including subject based tutoring, study skills and exam preparation.
• The mentoring provides a useful brokering role, furthering and nurturing young people’s engagement with other widening access activities in this area such as those of Focus West and Top Up programmes.
• As a result of their experience, mentees have indicated that they approach their studies differently. A number have shown the confidence needed to apply for and enter highly competitive HE courses/careers.
• Perhaps most crucially the research indicates that mentors are a source of emotional support, helping young people to address fluctuations in confidence and self-belief and encouraging them to keep focused on realising their required grades and future ambitions.
As the project develops, we hope to strengthen certain weaknesses in the project. These include providing greater support where needed to pupil and mentor relationships. We are also keen to further develop pupil involvement in the project. We have also tried to develop ways to make use of volunteers’ skills, either in addition to their mentoring, or where they may struggle to mentor but have other ways in which they can contribute to the aims of the project.
Finalist in Scottish Education Awards 2012 (Aiming High Award)
Scottish universities are being encouraged to be creative in their attempts to secure more successful applications from young people experiencing social/economic disadvantage. Targets for these applications have been agreed between the Scottish Funding Council and individual universities and there is the possibility of financial penalties for those who do not meet these targets. As a result it appears that widening access is becoming a higher priority in the strategic plans of all HEIs. This is also reflected in the ambitions of GCC Education Services who have made addressing widening access for Glasgow pupils a key priority. This is emphasised in a recent publication by GCC on improving social mobility/widening access in which the mentoring programme was referred to and by the support offered by Maureen McKenna the Executive Director of Education at GCC and the leader of the Council’s Education Committee and that of Councillor Stephen Curran, Executive Member for Education & Young People.
Read further information in the full case study report below…
With the Big Lottery Funding, over the course of three years, young people from 7 schools will be offered the opportunity to engage in one-to-one mentoring. The project will proceed in three phases with mentoring being consolidated in an existing pilot school and expanded to two further schools in the first year, 2015. Three further schools will be introduced to the programme in the second and third years. Taking into account the phased lead-in this will mean working with approximately 450 young people and 300 mentors over the course of the three years.
Scottish NPF Objectives
This project contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF).
The main NPF objective that this project contributes to is:
SMARTER – Expanding opportunities to succeed from nurture through to lifelong learning ensuring higher and more widely shared achievements.
These NPF objectives could also apply:
WEALTHIER & FAIRER – will support activities that address inequalities and enhance skills, employability and job opportunities. It builds on the characteristics of solidarity, cohesion and sustainability to ensure that all of Scotland has an opportunity to flourish
HEALTHIER – helping people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities, ensuring better, local and faster access to health care.
Scottish NPF Outcomes
Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens: To enable children, young people and (subsequently) adults to thrive from an early age, and make a positive contribution in the 21st century.
We are better educated, more skilled and more successful, renowned for our research and innovation.
We realise our full economic potential with more and better employment opportunities for our people.
We have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society.
We live longer, healthier lives: Securing longer healthier lives for the people of Scotland will always be a top priority for governments and individuals alike. There are significant challenges which can only be addressed by everyone in Scotland working together, pursuing this goal through improving lifestyles and life circumstances, and a shared ownership of an effective NHS.
Our people are able to maintain their independence as they get older and are able to access appropriate support when they need it.