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Student mentoring

How can technology better enable student mentoring across schools?
‘Yeah, thank you.’ It came about through a collaboration with another head who works in Buckinghamshire and we met on an SSAT training course and over time, you know, we went to various schools and what-have-you and then we thought it would be great to have some kind of collaboration. We’ve got very different settings, different schools. I was really keen to get some mentoring for my year 11 students, which had come out of one of the sessions that we’d had and again in my previous school, we used to bring students back that had gone on to do A Levels elsewhere and they would come and support children in the school, which was terrific. Great for them, great for the children.
So we were talking about this one day and then we said, ‘well maybe we could do it but just do it in a virtual way.’ So the first one we just got a couple of students with a couple of their students and they said, ‘what’s an area that, you know, you’d really want some mentoring on?’ and they picked poetry in English and then it just grew from there and then as they got more confident with it, they said well actually, I’m struggling a little bit with… I’m okay with English now, but I’m struggling a bit with maths. Could I have some maths?
They moved over to maths and it worked really well and it just then became routine and so we continued it this year and then because it has worked so well, and it’s been a really successful project, we really wanted to grow it and it’s tricky, you know, because we’ve got a certain number of iPads and a certain number of students. So we provide the iPads to Beaconsfield High so that they can connect with our children in the mornings and complete the mentoring sessions but it’s just been phenomenal really. I think you’ve got to, you’ve got to be really clear at the outset what you want to achieve, why you’re doing it, and then set some timescales and dates.
Make sure that the infrastructure is there so that you’ve got, you know because the connection, the broad.. you’ve got to have good Wi-Fi, make sure you’ve got access points and then it’s timetabling and make sure it suits both sides because then if you’ve got all that in place, it’s seamless, you don’t get any barriers and then it will just work. It’s been really, really powerful. It’s a very safe environment. I think the students from Beaconsfield High; they have a really wonderful way of supporting students. If they don’t get something, if there’s a bit of a barrier there, they’ll try another way. I’ve heard them. It’s just, it’s beautiful the way that they do it.
So I think that it’s because it’s that safe environment and the’ve built up a relationship over time so now they’re really quite confident with each other and I think from the other perspective, Rachel said that her girls are feeling that they feel that they’re giving, they’ve got an opportunity to share something, you know, on their UCAS application or the DofE, they’re volunteering but I think just generally that doing something good for another person, it’s a wonderful thing to do, to share that learning. [pupil teaching] Even just talking about it because even when you, yourself is sharing it with somebody else, you get that deeper understanding yourself. There’s real value in teaching and to gaining a greater understanding.
It’s clearly working so let’s see if it can go bigger. I mean, you know, ideally you could think even bigger, potentially there could be in the future some kind of student app where students can collaborate. There are such things available where it’s a mentoring for all students and everyone can be involved in this. You just don’t know where it could lead. We are expending. We’ve talked to people to say, look this is what… come and look and see what these children are able to achieve together when they’re not actually physically in the room together and that’s the real power power behind it.
We’ve talked about doing it locally but then you’ve got to get minibuses, you’ve got to get them out of school, you’re transporting them. For our children to have access to that mentoring just at the click of a button is fabulous.
In this video, Susan Dench, Executive Headteacher at The West Grantham Academy: St Hugh’s (secondary), shares how technology has enabled student mentoring.

Susan shares how a collaboration with another school in a different part of the country meant that her year 11 students could be mentored by pupils in this other school. Technology has enabled this to happen without the expense, time for and organisation of travel and Susan explains some of the actions required for the approach to work effectively.

Whilst the school makes use of iPads, consider what might enable you to achieve similar in your own context if you don’t have access to iPads. Whilst this case study depicts the approach being used between schools in the UK, you might like to think about international application, especially if you’re a teacher of modern foreign languages.

If you choose to focus on this case study as part of this week’s learning, you can share any initial reflections and questions with the course community in the comments space below.
  • How might these approaches be applied in your own context to solve a challenge you’ve identified?
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