Learning mentors are a relatively new addition to the school team. They may work in primary or secondary schools, with a range of age groups and children with a range of abilities. Learning mentors are an important part of the educational team, typically working with teachers, teaching assistants, the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (Senco) and senior staff. Their role may vary depending on the school and the needs of pupils, but they often act as an advocate for children and provide support for some of the most challenged children. In many schools, mentors have been able to significantly increase inclusion.
The role of a learning mentor varies enormously between schools, but typically may include:
- identifying children who would benefit from one-to-one tutoring
- discovering the reasons behind a child’s underachievement
- develop positive relationships with families and outside agencies
- helping children to draw up action plans and set goals for study, as well as developing their goal-setting skills
- helping children to build their confidence
- supporting children in the development of social skills and emotional literacy
- participate in safeguarding and child protection activities
- working with children to reduce exclusion and improve attendance and punctuality
- promote an holistic approach to learning throughout school, where social and emotional growth and academic achievement are equally valued
- identifying and removing barriers to learning that may prevent children from reaching their full potential.
Learning mentors usually work a 35 to 37-hour week (daytime hours), including some evening and occasional weekend work on extra-curricular activities or with parents. Preparation and administrative work is often done in the evening.
Skills and knowledge required by learning mentors include:
- reliable, approachable, non-judgemental
- a good listener
- good communication skills and able to work with a variety of external agencies
- strong team-working skills
- problem solving skills
- able to challenge mentees in a constructive and positive way
- able to offer confidentiality to mentees whilst still playing a role within the school team
best route into becoming a learning mentor
There is no formal qualification for learning mentors so people tend to come into this role from a number of different directions; for example, they may have previously worked as a teaching assistant or qualified teacher, or they may have a non-educational background. The personal skills listed above are important, and new mentors should also demonstrate an interest in learning and enjoy working with children and young people. If you have no previous experience of working with children, a good starting point is to volunteer in school, at after-school clubs, or community work with children.
Borders short course, Mentoring Skills in School can offer a good introduction to this area, allowing you to develop core skills and understand more about the mentoring role.