The GROW Mentoring Programme was set up in 2020 in response to the pandemic and its impact on young people and their education. It pairs graduate mentors with Y10-13 pupils in schools and colleges to offer one-to-one support to help them focus on their exams, achieve personal goals and plan for their future.
The Programme has supported more than 2,000 GCSE and A-level pupils across South Yorkshire since it launched.
Following Government funding it was recently extended to support pupils in five specialist schools in Sheffield. A total of 42 pupils with a range of educational needs took part in a pilot of the programme tailored to individual needs, helping to build communication skills and confidence.
One of the specialist schools involved in the pilot was Holgate Meadows School.
Adele Hetherington, Careers and Aspiration Lead at Holgate Meadows, said: “The pandemic has been really difficult for our students, including changes to routine, isolation, and lack of social interaction, so taking on a new challenge for them was something I was quite nervous about.
“I signed up to the GROW mentoring programme in the hope of giving students the chance to have that one-to-one personal reflection time that isn’t always possible in a busy classroom environment. The programme has had such a positive impact on the students who are participating already.
“Our students can find new people and experiences very difficult, but all have built positive working relationships with their mentor in a short space of time.”
It is hoped the schools will run the programme again from September with a new cohort of pupils.
A small pilot of the programme was also trialled in Barnsley with young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
Five young people worked with mentors over a 12-week period. One girl who had refused to attend school since Christmas returned to the classroom and sat her exams. Another felt the programme gave her the confidence to apply to college and she has since secured a place.
GROW programme director, Sue O’Brien, said: “Extending the GROW programme to help young people with special educational needs to think about their future pathways and encourage young people not in education, employment or training to reengage and think positively about future opportunities are further ways we’re ensuring our young people get back on track after the turbulence of the last two years. We’re delighted the young people have engaged so brilliantly and are already feeling the positive impact of this support.”
Expanding the GROW programme is one of Sheffield Hallam’s commitments to the region as part of its Civic University Agreement. As part of the University’s pledge to support education and skills, it will work with schools and partner agencies to ensure more pupils in South Yorkshire benefit from the programme.