South Yorkshire Futures has collaborated with experts across Sheffield Hallam University to pilot a mentoring scheme for young people progressing into Y11 in September. The pilot began in July and ran over four weeks. The programme, named GROW, involves Sheffield Hallam graduates mentoring a cohort of young people to support their transition back into school post Covid-19. The graduates underwent training before being deployed into local schools to support young people to re-engage with their studies and transition back into full time school.

Consultation with schools suggests that, in addition to tutoring, broader support around wellbeing as well as reengaging 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. Evidence shows that support based around a mentor relationship, particularly a mentor who can act as a role model a pupil can relate to, can be extremely effective.

Conor Moss, Dean of Work-Based Learning at Sheffield Hallam University, said:

“Our ground-breaking plan will harness the power of Sheffield Hallam graduates and boost the national effort to support young people, whose education has been unfairly curtailed by Covid-19 through no fault of their ownBut the programme will also have a positive effect on our graduates, who themselves face a challenging jobs market due to Covid-19. Being a mentor will provide an outstanding chance to upskill at a time when opportunities are limited, and some could even be inspired to go into teaching as a career.”

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan joined a virtual meeting hosted by Sheffield Hallam University to meet a group of the graduate mentors. The Minister took part in an interactive session with graduate mentors and pupils from Firth Park Academy in Sheffield and Wales High School in Rotherham who are part of the pilot scheme for the GROW Mentoring Programme.

During the virtual visit, the Minister also took part in a round table discussion with teachers and graduate mentors from all four schools across South Yorkshire who are involved in the pilot and had discussions with the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Chris Husbands, and Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director, Henri Murison.

Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, said:

“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…It was great to hear from graduate mentors from the GROW programme about their invaluable work helping pupils as they prepare to return to school. This experience will help graduates build their skills, gain experience and bolster their CVs as they prepare to start their careers.”

Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Chris Husbands, said:

“We welcome the visit of the Universities Minister today to learn more about the GROW Mentoring Programme. The Class of 2020 face an extremely challenging job market, and this programme is a great example of how universities can create opportunities that both harness the skills of our graduates and support our region’s recovery as we all adapt to a post-Covid-19 landscape.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership Director, Henri Murison, said:

“The Covid-19 crisis has brought the North-South educational attainment divide into sharp focus, with disadvantaged children in the Northern Powerhouse falling further behind their better-off peers…The catch up package Sheffield Hallam have put together with our backing is being scaled up by a partnership of Northern universities from the North East to Lancashire, and will provide vital support for disadvantaged children, as well as provide employment for graduates looking for jobs in what will no doubt be a tough market.”

For more information on the GROW Mentoring Programme click here to visit the blog.