The GROW Mentoring Programme is an initiative set up in collaboration with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, pairing graduate mentors with school and college pupils across the region to help them re-focus on their education following Covid-19 disruption.
The programme was launched as a pilot scheme in July 2020, designed to address some of the challenges facing year 10 and year 11 pupils. Since then, the programme has been expanded across the region, supporting over 1,000 Y10-13 pupils in schools and colleges, offering one-to-one support to help them focus on their exams, achieve personal goals and plan for their future.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan took part in an interactive session with graduate mentors and pupils from Firth Park Academy in Sheffield and Wales High School in Rotherham who were part of the pilot scheme.
“I know this is a difficult time for young people but I am pleased universities like Sheffield Hallam are stepping up, supporting their communities and contributing to the national recovery effort.”
Rt. Hon Michelle Donelan MP, Minister for Higher and Further Education
Mentors receive intensive training before being deployed into schools and colleges to work closely with pupils and teachers, with a focus on those pupils that have been most affected by Covid-19 restrictions.
In January 2022 the GROW Programme received more than £500k funding through the Government's Community Renewal Fund as part of bids submitted by Sheffield City Council and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.
The programme also received £200,000 funding from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYCMA) and Sheffield Hallam University.
This latest funding will provide one-to-one support for another 1,400 pupils across 50 schools and colleges, with support delivered by 150 specially trained mentors.
The funding will also enable graduate mentors to work with young people with special educational needs as well as those aged 16-24 classed as NEET (not in education, employment or training) for the first time.
An adapted programme for 66 young people with special educational needs in Sheffield and 24 young people who are NEET in Barnsley commenced delivery in April 2022.
One of the graduate mentors who took part in the pilot programme, Abby Wensley, worked with pupils at XP in Doncaster. She has since secured a job as a teaching assistant at a school in Rotherham.
“There are so many benefits to you as a mentor and the pupils. You get transferable skills and you’re building confidence and trust. My pupils were great; we were all nervous when we started but by the end, we were confident and speaking easily.”
Consultation with schools suggests that, in addition to tutoring, broader support around wellbeing as well as re-engaging and motivating pupils will be vital to help young people successfully transition back to full time school and make the right choices for their future.