The Power of Progression (Chapter 1)

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Amid much talk about progress, how to assess it, how to maximise it, how to close the gaps I make sense of this hydra through the individual journeys I witness and contribute to through raising their confidence in themselves to progress beyond their (initially) limiting beliefs.

In February I wrote about a cohort of ‘looked after’ children I was privileged to work with in Derbyshire, whom I supported to become Peer Tutors. They’ve been beavering away supporting their peers in school on a one to one basis with dedicated school staff and a Virtual School Mentor alongside to help them overcome internal and external barriers along the way. Here’s what one of them wrote recently:

Ever since I became part of the UFA I have become a confident and bright person, in and out of school. Being part of the UFA has definitely been the best experience of my life. I have met lifelong friends and we are all like one big UFA family. I have enjoyed teaching at my school and having someone look at me as their role model. What challenged me the most at the start was my confidence in, not only myself, but others around me, but everyone was and is so nice to me.

Her Education Support Officer agrees:

I am AMAZED at how confident she has become….this has helped her become more sociable by speaking to new people, and has become less dependent on her friends, which is just fantastic. She wants to go for Head Girl when she goes into Year 10, which is a huge step forward as she would never have thought about doing something this like before. The UFA mentoring programme has definitely been a huge contributing factor to her growing confidence and self-esteem, and it is so wonderful to see in her.

One of our cohort had significant behavioural challenges (if I’d had T’s history I reckon I’d be so angry and hurt I wouldn’t know how to channel it either); here’s his report card on the experience now:

I’ve changed. My confidence has built up. My communication skills have developed. I made great new friends. You have to adapt to different people and I’ve been able to calm others down, calm people who have a temper. It’s made me a better person. My relationship with the head of year became stronger, it made me realise that I can cope with things that I didn’t think I could.


His assessment is backed up by the Virtual School Mentor and his Head of Year:

Never underestimate the power of a young person mentoring another young person. At times, throughout T’s mentoring – he was the only person that could get through to his mentee. He was the only person that could calm him down and get him back into lesson. It seems that T recognized his own behaviour through the mirror of R’s and was able to reach R when staff could not. His Head of Year is clear that the mentoring has given him and T a vehicle to talk about T’s issues vicariously (through reflecting upon his work with his mentee). The frequency of SLT call-outs to him, regarding his disruptive behaviour also fell.

Without exception the project has enabled relationships between our Peer Tutors and key school staff to deepen – so vital for the socialisation of these young people whose concept of relating has been so fractured. I have been moved by them all describing our project as a UFA family – it’s not a new reflection to hear  from young people I work with but from these young people it’s a very special and honourable mention.

Peer Tutoring has inevitably impacted on their academic attainment: “having to teach Maths to his mentee has  increased T’s confidence in Maths and rapidly shifted his behaviour in class so that he stayed in and was much more responsive to the lesson”; B said she felt it had helped her progress in history as it had made her feel more confident in her abilities and enabled her to think in more depth about historical skills as she had had to simplify these to teach them to her mentees.”

And of course they have impacted in turn on their peers’ academic progress: the effectiveness of B’s mentoring has enabled both boys to progress as neither of them had achieved their target grades in previous assessments.” There’s that double whammy benefit that investing in Peer Tutoring gets you!

Frankly I am delighted and bowled over by the profound shift I’ve witnessed in these courageous and inspiring young people as a result of becoming a UFA Peer Tutor. I know, and they know, that their lives will be different now, and for the better, because the experience has radically and systemically changed their beliefs about themselves which has opened their minds and hearts to more of themselves. They now know they are capable of far more than they originally thought possible, and that with a team of friends and family around them they truly can aim for the stars.

This has made my confidence bigger; it pushes you to become a bigger person and believe in yourself. If Peer Tutoring were a kind of weather it would be the sun because everybody shines bright in their own way.

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