Becoming an Academic Mentor: Making a difference in the education of the pupils most affected by the pandemic

Suzanne Jones is currently academic mentor at Thorpedene Primary School in Essex as part of the National Tutoring Program. Discuss what motivated her to become an academic mentor and what the role entails.

When I discovered the role of an academic mentor, it immediately fascinated me because I was looking for a career change and I knew I wanted to work with children or young people as a mentor. I had invaluable experience working in a school during my year abroad at university where I taught English to school-age children in France.

The National Tutoring Program aims to support those children whose education has been most disrupted in the past 18 months. What resonated the most was the opportunity to play a small role in ensuring that every child, regardless of context or location, has access to the best possible education. From personal experience, I know that personalized attention and encouragement can help students achieve and build their confidence.

After being accepted into the program, I completed a two-week online training course and was then placed at a primary school in Essex which, coincidentally, had been mine. I quickly settled into the school and felt very much part of the team.

Role and responsibility

I work in year 5, taking children for individual and small group lesson sessions. My focus is on all aspects of literacy. This includes reading, spelling, sentence structure and handwriting. In addition to more specialized projects, such as the creation of the first page of a school newspaper.

I plan my sessions, which I really enjoy. There is real satisfaction in knowing that you have planned a quality lesson that has met its goals and made a real impact on the child. I regularly collaborate with the teaching staff for assistance and support, to ensure that my content meets the needs of the curriculum. My colleagues have provided valuable information about the pupils, which helps me create tailored and impactful resources to best support their individual needs.

Building relationships with pupils takes time and patience. Each child has their own learning challenges both inside and outside the school and has conflicting demands on their levels of concentration and motivation. It is essential that my approach to learning is flexible, allowing me to achieve the best outcome for that child on that particular day.

Impact

I feel the impact I have in the role is huge and I have been able to strengthen some skills, such as handwriting and reading, which have been identified as areas in need of improvement. I particularly remember the first time a child ran to me to tell me that the word we learned together came up in another lesson and helped unlock the topic for them. Witnessing a child’s light bulb moment is incredibly rewarding and it’s a privilege to help them realize their potential. Pupils who previously would have struggled are now busy, contributing to members when they do group work.

This is my second year as an academic mentor at the school and I want to know that every child I have worked with has had their share of bright moments and have seen their full potential for themselves.

Find out more about the National mentoring program.

Schools can now qualify for an academic mentor if:

  • Access to the Academic Mentoring Program last year
  • They are found in one of the 118 LADs or areas of opportunity listed here
  • Have a Pupil Premium percentage higher than 30% (new criteria)

Register your school.

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