Mentors and £70m - Will this fix careers education? Part 1

Mentors and £70m - Will this fix careers education? Part 1

Thursday 14th January 2016

Yesterday the PM announced that the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) would be coordinating a programme of recruiting

A new generation of high-flying mentors will be created to help struggling teens fulfil their potential and improve their life chances.

Reading on, it transpires that these mentors are not going to be universal, these mentors will be for

...young teens at risk of dropping out of education or achieving less than they could.

The announcement goes on to showcase the benefits of having mentors and can be read here. However, I'd like to focus on two aspects of this announcement:-

1) The importance of the relationship between mentor and mentee.
2) How this £70m will affect the efficacy of careers education in England. (Don't forget Scotland, Wales and NI have different arrangements) I'll deal with this in part 2

The importance of the relationship between mentor and mentee.

A little background

Having spent over 20 years of my life teaching in schools in inner London, I think I'm fairly qualified to write about the importance of matching mentor to mentee. I'll go further than that, as the child of a working class east end family who was the first in the family to go to grammar school and university, I'd say I'm pretty well qualified.

I'm speaking from an empirical stance here, I was lucky enough to be born in an era where free university education was available and social mobility was a high priority. I ambled through school, not achieving very much even though I was more than capable. I won't go into reasons and situations, surface to say I was the very epitome of the type of child that David Cameron would have sat down in a classroom with a mentor.

After school, I drifted into nursery nurse training as I'd identified that I could become a midwife (my goal) if I completed NNEB training (That's what you could do in the early 70s) The trouble was I didn't like small children very much, so I dropped out. I'd received no careers advice at school and was wandering on my own through a work landscape which allowed me to float from job to job without problem.

Eventually, after floating long enough, selling advertising space, auxiliary nursing, doing admin work, getting married and having a child. I drifted into a 1980s government training course for secretaries. and there I met my mentor. She taught typewriting (yes I know I'm showing my age) and I wanted to be like her. From that point on I found the path. I wanted to teach.

The importance of the mentor/mentee relationship

I identified my own mentor and luckily for me she happily took on the mantle and supported me through my training to the point she actually helped me land my first job as a typewriting teacher in the early 80s.

I felt a bond with my mentor, we got each other. We were from fairly similar backgrounds, both working class but having jumped the grammar school hurdle. Our ethnicity was the same. She was a generation or two above me yes but we had threads that linked us together. We believed in each other.

I wonder how I would have felt plonked into a classroom with somebody with whom I had little in common? One who didn't understand my mindset or situation? One who didn't understand my feeling of disenfranchisement when immersed in an alien environment? How will that two way confidence be nurtured. How will we be matching and training our new mentors?