Pupils to benefit from new mentoring scheme

The programme will be launched at Inverurie Academy
The programme will be launched at Inverurie Academy

More than 250 young people are to benefit from a schools-based mentoring programme being launched in six North-east secondary schools.

MCR Pathways’ Young Scottish Talent initiative will be available to support disadvantaged and care-experienced pupils at St Machar, Banff, Inverurie, Fraserburgh and Peterhead Academies, as well as The Gordon Schools from August.

The charity, which is being supported by The Wood Foundation as it expands its reach in the North-east, hopes to eventually be active in every City and Shire secondary school.

The North-east is the first area for the nationwide expansion of the programme outside of Glasgow. Aberdeen has the second highest proportion of young people failing to move onto ‘positive destinations’ when they leave school.

The Wood Foundation’s UK Director Ali MacLachlan said: “Nurturing young people at this crossroads in their lives is vitally important in terms of supporting them to find the right path to fulfil their potential.

“People may be surprised to learn that the North-east has such high rates of young people unable to move onto positive destinations after school. We must harness the potential of these young people to support the current and future economic performance of our region.

“Many of these vulnerable young people lack the stability and support many of us take for granted. This imbalance is something the programme aims to address.

“MCR Pathways has already demonstrated significant impact and we are pleased to support its introduction to the North-east.”

The Wood Foundation will be hosting an open event next week to inform potential mentors and business partners about the programme.

A mentor meets a young person weekly in their school. They provide a listening ear and supportive voice – a constant adult role model who will build confidence, aspirations and a route to meaningful training or employment. Mentors are trained to guide young people through subject choices, training and professional routes to broaden their mind-sets and realise their potential.

One of the opportunities, which requires support from the local business community, is ‘Talent Tasters’ – a bite-sized work experience programme showing young people different aspects of industry.

Iain MacRitchie of MCR Pathways said: “A young person’s future should be determined by their potential, never their circumstances. Our mentoring scheme levels the playing field and gives young people structured, enthusiastic and dedicated support to really find a way to realise and achieve their goals as they make that transition from childhood to their adult lives.

“We are very proud of what the programme and our young people have achieved to date and we have no doubt the same successes will be realised in the North-east where we have recognised a real need and desire for this support.”

‘Pathways Coordinators’ have been hired for each of the six schools and will begin work after the summer break. They support pupils in S1 and 2 and match them with a mentor from S3.

MCR Pathways is already operational across all Glasgow secondary schools where more than 1300 young people are supported each week through a mixture of group work, mentoring and work-based ‘Talent Taster’ opportunities. More than 80% of mentored participants have moved onto further education, higher education or employment in sharp contrast to the national figure of 54%.

Businessman Iain MacRitchie launched the charity in 2007 after being shocked by a professional experience restructuring a youth care business. While the business health was restored, the poor outcomes for young people remained the same and he realised the need for relationship-based, meaningful support.

He commented: “That professional experience was a real eye-opener for me, seeing that these young people were not getting the support they needed and nowhere near achieving their potential. I vowed then to do something and have taken time out from my business to make a difference. This programme really does deliver profound results for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“Helping a young person onto the right path at this stage really is life-changing. We continuously hear incredible stories including a mentee who went from a homeless unit to medical school and another who had to contend with family addiction issues and was four years behind in their education to graduating university and becoming a building surveyor.

“Their stories, among countless other, have spurred us to roll out this project nationwide and we look forward to hearing of the successes of North-east youngsters in the years to come.”

The first information event for individuals and businesses keen to support the programme in the North-east will be held at The Wood Foundation’s office in Aberdeen on Monday, June 18.

To register, or for more information on future events, please contact Alison.maclachlan@thewoodfoundation.org.uk.