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Academic Mentors Programme: helping your pupils after COVID-19

Every pupil’s experience will have been different. Some will have thrived, some will be fine, some will have suffered.

Every pupil’s experience will have been different. Some will have thrived, some will be fine, some will have suffered. Schools will know best how to target interventions.

While the crisis has affected many pupils in some way, the big impacts are being felt by those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The attainment gap has widened due to COVID-19 – The Education Endowment Foundation suggest that 10 years of progress towards equality in education outcomes could be wiped.

Schools have done a stunning job during this time. They have combined traditional and online learning while reaching out to help their communities. We also know that one of the most important steps to recovery is to re-establish whole school routines and expectations, and to get on with high quality, whole class teaching.

Extra targeted support could help. This is something we’ve been calling for from the start of the lockdown period. But we also wanted to be sure that any such provision was sustainable – not by handing additional unpaid work to already busy teachers.

So we were pleased to learn of plans for a new National Tutoring Programme: an initiative designed to help address the impact of school closures on pupil learning. The idea is to provide new and dedicated tutoring resources to the schools that need it most.

We’re excited to announce that we’re working with four other charities – the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta – to deliver a new Academic Mentors programme as one part of the National Tutoring Programme. It’s a relatively small part of the overall catch up fund, but it could have a big impact.

The Teach First Academic Mentoring Programme will give schools in the most disadvantaged areas access to a pool of trained graduates and career changers, who they can employ to support their pupils. These academic mentors will provide intensive learning support, while allowing teachers to focus on delivering lessons. Evidence suggests how effective this kind of small group tuition can be. By directly employing academic mentors within each school, their activity and impact can be shaped to the school’s needs and closely monitored. Additionally, the base salaries will be fully government funded, with schools covering other costs such as pension and national insurance contributions.

We will work closely with head teachers and experts to better understand exactly how to deploy the mentors to best meet their needs and want to hear ideas from across the sector.

Who are the academic mentors?

Candidates must have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and/​or an undergraduate degree, as well as at least a grade 4 or equivalent in their English and Maths GCSEs.

We’ll be recruiting candidates for secondary who specialise in the following subject areas: English, science, maths, modern foreign languages, humanities. In primary they’ll focus on literacy and numeracy.

How will they be trained?

Candidates with QTS will undergo one week of intensive training, while those without will be trained for two weeks. We’ve designed this training based on evidence of what makes for effective intensive pupil catch-up support. Like many organisations, we’ve also learned a lot about digital recruitment and training in the last few months and we’ll use that expertise to deliver this programme on a national scale.

Training will cover topics such as child safeguarding as well as pedagogical and subject-specific training. After academic mentors have completed their training, we’ll provide them with Teach First support staff and additional training sessions to help them best serve the schools that hire them. We’ll remain connected throughout their deployment.

How can my school get involved?

Schools serving disadvantaged communities that would qualify to hire teachers through our Training Programme will also be able to hire academic mentors – you don’t already have to be partnered with us to participate.

As mentioned earlier, the Department for Education will be covering base salaries. This means schools will be responsible for costs such as pension and national insurance contributions, equipment, and support given to all new school staff.

If you think your pupils might benefit from academic mentors, just fill in this form and someone from our team will be back in touch with more information.

Will this change Teach First’s approach to teacher training?

No. The Academic Mentoring Programme is aimed at providing pupil mentoring resource, not teachers or teaching assistants. These aren’t teachers and shouldn’t be doing a teacher’s work. They won’t be studying towards a QTS or post grad diploma or certificate while on the programme. This is a very specific model for a very specific moment in history. However, we’re aware that learning provision like this could be useful beyond the current pandemic, so we’re keen to see how outcomes from this programme might support future work. Some of these people may make great permanent staff or progress on to teacher training programmes.

Our priority remains to build a fair education for all, by training great teachers and inspiring leaders. With the additional – and vital – support provided by our academic mentors, we can help close the attainment gap facing children from disadvantaged backgrounds. As always, if you’d like to find out how we can support your school, just get in touch with our team.

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