News Archive

Mentoring - some of the issues

Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Former NUT Education Secretary and now key government education adviser Professor Michael Barber is credited by many mentors with introducing the term and applying the theory into practice in schools in a unique way in Britain. Mentors are also being deployed successfully in the juvenile justice system as part of the policy of moving from punishment to prevention. This is reflected in the 1m funding by the Home Office to the National Mentoring Network. Work by CYWU members in juvenile justice mentoring has demonstrated the advantages of the system to probationers and prisons in unequivocal terms.

Learning mentors in British schools are unique professionals. In Birmingham there are 400 spread across the 175 schools. The Schools Achieving Success White Paper concentrates on improving academic work and recognising the role of mentoring in this. The Excellence in Cities funding to inner city schools has created mentoring teams who are now in great demand. These projects will now be clustered bringing some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country together. The Excellence Challenge initiative aims to introduce mentors into FE and HE in a similar way.

Many contradictions have developed in this fast unravelling new professional and agenda. The qualification base of mentors varies. The terms and conditions vary. The quality of management is varied to say the least with some head teachers seeing mentors as low grade class room assistants and failing to respect their professional expertise. This is often reflected in bizarre and insulting contractual arrangements. Mentors for gifted and talented children in some areas earn more than those working with underperforming pupils. Mentors with a teaching qualification sometimes do different forms of mentoring and earn more. Regrettably there is some evidence also of racial discrimination in this area which the Union is determined to challenge. There are differentials and resource differences between mentors in primary and secondary education. Money allocated to some schools for Excellence in Cities mentoring schemes does not always find itself in the right place and recommended pay rates are ignored.

There is much for CYWU and the teaching and headteaching unions to do in this area and the challenge is one that we relish at this time when mentoring can so clearly make a difference to young people.

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