Impetus-PEF: Making the best of mentoring

Our founders at Impetus-PEF have published an insightful article highlighting the value of mentoring in light of the Prime Minister’s new national campaign, led by the Careers and Enterprise Company to recruit more mentors to work with young people. ThinkForward’s Managing Director, Kevin Munday attended the Prime Minister’s speech on life chances last week and amongst other things the PM emphasised the importance of character education and work experience for young people. Please find an edited version of the article below.

At Impetus-PEF we know, from our work supporting charities working with disadvantaged young people to improve their educational and employment outcomes, that mentoring can be a valuable tool. Acting as a trusted and reliable adult in the life of a young person who does not have this support can help break damaging behaviours and encourage positive new ones.

There is also hard evidence that mentoring can be impactful. Meta-analyses of published programme evaluations show improvements across many areas including behavioural and social-emotional outcomes, such as involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour.

However the links to academic attainment are not as strong. The Educational Endowment Foundation/Sutton Trust Toolkit which evaluates the most effective methods for boosting attainment rates mentoring as low impact. Using their benchmarks, they judge that mentoring leads to, on average, only one or two months’ additional academic progress for children, compared to their peers who do not receive mentoring. Disadvantaged children appear to make the most progress.

For a target population at risk of failing their GCSEs, it is our experience that mentoring needs to be part of a larger support package. In addition, they are likely to need targeted support on their academic attainment, as well as careers advice and work experience. Mentors are then very well-placed to reinforce this by offering motivation and inspiration which keep young people focussed. Some of our partner charities, including ThinkForward, use mentoring as one element of their programmes in this way.

When we are looking at potential partner charities at Impetus-PEF we ask ourselves ‘Is it credible that *this* programme will get *these* young people to *those* outcomes?’ – is it fit to meet the need? Using the evidence base can help make the programme as credible as it can be, by revealing the things you should and should not do to increase your chances of having a positive impact.

When it comes to mentoring the evidence base shows that a clear, codified structure for the intervention, and expectations of both the mentors and mentees is important, as is initial training and ongoing supervision and support for mentors. Screening of mentors to assess their commitment and reliability over the long-term will not be a wasted effort, as mentoring relationships that end sooner are less likely to have an impact. Equally, effective mentoring programmes invest time in getting the match right between mentor and mentee – where they share interests, the impacts are greater.

There is also some evidence that mentors from a ‘professional background’ improve outcomes, and that community-based mentoring programmes are more effective than school-based programmes. As the EEF/Sutton Trust Toolkit makes clear, there have been mentoring programmes that have had a detrimental effect on young people. The impact, or lack of it, is in the detail of how the programmes are designed, implemented, and managed.

Mentoring is a less expensive intervention compared to some others – but any intervention is expensive which does not achieve its aims. It will be crucial that the ‘credibility test’ is applied as this mentoring programme is designed and rolled out, that the evidence base is used, and that the young mentees’ academic progress is tracked, and used to manage the programme. After all, the stakes are highest for them.

This article first appeared on the Impetus-PEF website on 26th Jan 2015

ThinkForward young people celebrate success

Two young people who just a few years ago were high risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) were awarded the School Achiever of the Year Award last night for their amazing academic and vocational achievements at an award ceremony hosted by Tomorrow’s People, at the stunning Grange City Hotel in Tower Bridge. The two ThinkForward young people, Atiya Rounaq and Declan Norrie, received the prestigious award from the Countess of Wessex. Both their ThinkForward Coaches, Brad Levy and Darrin Reece also accompanied them on stage for an incredibly proud moment for all.

Atiya and Declan were identified as having a high risk of leaving school at age 16 with no qualifications or prospects for employment. ThinkForward’s breakthrough programme provides young people with five years of intensive one-to-one support from a highly qualified Progression Coaches. ThinkForward’s Coaches and dedicated employability programme has enabled 96% of participants to progress into higher education, employment or training. The programme currently operates in 14 schools across Islington, Tower Hamlets and Hackney with plans to expand to a new region in the coming year.

After receiving the award, Atiya said: “I want to thank my two lovely Coaches and ThinkForward for helping me become who I am, for helping me change and evolve my ways to become a better person. If it wasn’t for ThinkForward, I wouldn’t have ever overcome most of the things I’ve been through. I’ve always had my coaches there to support me and I know I can rely on them to listen. ThinkForward honestly changed my life for the better!

After receiving the award, Declan said, “Having a coach changed my life and it’s an opportunity I’m so grateful to have had especially after my attitude was so bad and helped me get my award which me and my mum are really proud of.

To read more about Atiya and Declan please see below:

When Declan was just four years old, his father was sent to prison for a drugs-related murder, leaving Declan’s mother to raise him and his two brothers by herself. This affected Declan in an extremely negative way, causing him to develop anger issues which in turn caused him to get sent out of lessons for bad behaviour, which often led to exclusion. He was just not co-operating with anyone in school at all and his future looked bleak. Declan then began working with Darrin, his ThinkForward coach, who looked at the areas he felt Declan needed support with. Over time Darrin began developing a good relationship with Declan becoming a positive male role model, something that Declan lacked and needed in his life.

Fast forward and Declan has now been working with Darrin for 3.5 years and has completely transformed his behaviour and attitude towards his education and future. He gained the necessary five GCSEs and was accepted on a construction apprenticeship which he excelled in, resulting in Declan receiving recognition from the CEO for his enthusiastic work ethic, positive attitude and being an overall role model to other apprentices. Declan is now an apprentice in the construction field and has aspirations to start his own construction company, employing dis-effected young people, as a way of giving back.

Atiya came onto Think Forward as a capable but troubled student. She lived at home with her mum and her sister and although dad was estranged from mum, he still formed a powerful influence over the family. He had been physically abusive to Atiya’s mother and verbally abusive to Atiya and this had formed a deep impression on Atiya’s approach to her personal relationships and school life. Atiya had difficulties in dealing with her emotions and frequently accessed support from the school pastoral team but always stopped short of accessing mental health support as she did not trust counselling services. She did, however, form a strong bond with her ThinkForward coach and would often attend lunch time group sessions exploring gratitude and resilience.

In 2014 Atiya managed to get 9 A-C GCSEs and signed up for A-levels at college. Whilst at college she was highlighted as a gifted student however, in November Atiya decided that she did not want to continue with college and wanted to work in banking. She quit college in December and with her coach’s support signed up for a traineeship with Capita to become a Barclays Apprentice. After an 8 week traineeship and work placement she successfully gained an apprenticeship with Barclays as a Digital Eagle.

The special relationship: Young people and their ThinkForward coach

Coaching photo sized for blog post

These days everyone has a coach, I have one, my colleagues have one, my friends have one, even Richard Branson has one, and now young people can have one too.  Like wheels on suitcases, it’s amazing how long it has taken to realise that this is a good idea, that young people can benefit from having a go-to person, a constant, a confidante and a single point of contact who will help open doors and opportunities.  For young people this is potentially transformative.

ThinkForward is leading the way in early intervention coaching. Beginning the coaching relationship with 13 and 14 year olds, and based full-time in a school, coaches are able to support young people who are at a high risk of dropping out of education, employment and training, to develop the attitudes, mind-sets, and the self-efficacy they need to succeed in the often difficult transition to post-16 education and employment.

A ThinkForward coach is not quite the same as those in the corporate world or life coaching, although they do have many things in common. ThinkForward coaches ask the young people challenging questions, ensuring that the responsibility for their choices and the subsequent consequences remains with the young person. Coaches provide support with unpacking complex and sticky issues, helping young people set goals and realise their best course of action, but they are so much more as well.

Not a teacher, parent or social worker, a ThinkForward coach is an older person in a young person’s life. A caring adult with high standards with whom they can have an enduring relationship.

The coach works closely with each young person to identify their needs, work out how best to meet them, and stands side-by-side with them while they navigate over the many hurdles, intrinsic and extrinsic, towards a stable and successful future. Some will need their metaphorical hand held the whole way, while others may just need to be pointed in the right direction.

The coaching relationship lasts for five years during which time the young person forges and traverses their individual path to further education and eventual employment. Coaches deliver a potent and bespoke combination of one-to-one support and targeted workshops, as well as creating opportunities for work experience and facilitating business mentoring relationships – all designed to better connect young people with the world of work. In addition to signposting, referring to and liaising with other service providers that can also support the young person to overcome barriers to their success.

Five years is a long time to develop a meaningful relationship, from the initial rapport building, through to reluctant cooperation and eventually enthusiastic alliance, this unique relationship is at its strongest when there is a mutual respect, understanding and perhaps most importantly – trust. The coach is willing to challenge the young person about their behaviour and their decisions whilst not excepting anything less than the young person taking full personal responsibility for their life, their choices and their own future.

Only with trust does this openness and frankness between the coach and the young person become accepted and flourish. It is these essential ingredients that support a young person on their journey; from dis-engagement and low aspirations, through to self-awareness, finding motivation, deciding upon direction, developing skills, securing qualifications and eventually moving into sustainable employment and personal success.