Mentorship is a powerful approach to see attendance, attainment and opportunities soar. Young people with mentors have greater self esteem, set higher goals for themselves and are more likely to reach further education. In fact, research suggests that access to just one caring and committed adult can boost a vulnerable child’s resilience and enable them to thrive, despite adversity they may have faced.
Yet one in three young people don’t have a mentor figure of any kind. Worryingly, this figure could be even higher for disadvantaged youth – those who stand to gain the most from such a nourishing relationship. We cannot assume that every child has access to a caring adult they can turn to for guidance and support. Such a simple yet crucial support system cannot be left to chance, schools must play their part.
That’s why some schools turn to formal mentorship programmes. Icehearts is an early intervention programme in Finland that helps children at high risk of exclusion. Iceheart mentors provide holistic support to the children, guiding and supporting during class, lunch time and recess.
Crucially, mentors work with the same children throughout their entire school career. This allows for a deep understanding and connection to build over time, and ensures no child slips through the net. Mentors even form relationships with families and share practical and emotional support with them too, at the parent’s request. Emphasis is put on sports and social activities in order to create a buzzing and thriving community for students to belong to. Students are at the heart of these activities, providing a support network and another reason to stay in school.
Every student stands to benefit from undivided adult attention, something that is hard to come by in hectic, populous classrooms. Reading Grandmas and Grandpas is a Finnish experiment that sees specially trained seniors visiting the classroom daily, to give their complete undivided attention to individual readers.
The seniors become a part of the classroom culture, joining in with other activities and contributing valuable lessons from their own life experiences. This collaborative approach means that each child receives regular one to one attention, something that can boost not only their academic performance but also their self esteem, confidence and sense of belonging.
Whether it’s community volunteers, teachers, parents or even grandparents, every child deserves someone who believes in them and supports them to succeed. One caring adult could be all it takes to change their life chances for the better. Let’s make it happen.