Faye Ramsbottom, Religious Studies and Philosophy Teacher and Assistant Head of Key Stage 4 at St Clement Danes School, explains how her experience of becoming a Programme Leader for Franklin Scholars has taught her to re-focus on removing barriers to learning for vulnerable pupils.
As Programme Leader for Franklin Scholars at St Clement Danes School for the last year, it’s been my responsibility to coordinate and oversee twice-weekly sessions with Year 10s and Year 7s, involving a combination of group activities, 1:1 literacy support and 1:1 mentoring.
The most powerful thing for me has been seeing students find their way within the programme and within the school, and the Year 10s taking the initiative and jumping at the chance to help younger students out. The Year 7s are even doing it now too – offering help in areas where their peers are struggling.
Some Y10-Y7 pairs have built really strong and productive relationships. One striking example of the power of peer networks has been personified by the relationship between one Year 7 and his Franklin Scholar. The younger pupil is very outgoing, and not always inclined to sit down and complete tasks that require an extended period of concentration. His Y10 mentor had the idea of teaching him how to play chess, which has been great to see and has likely been a factor in improving his ability to focus in class.
Year 7 participants have reported an increase in their confidence, and have felt supported by having a trusted peer in school. Where the relationship between mentor and mentee is strong there has been a noticeable impact on pupils’ attitudes to learning – shown through reports from teachers. Amongst the Year 10s we have noted, in particular, the development of their leadership and communication skills.
I think what makes the programme stand out from other peer mentoring or buddying schemes is the frequency and consistency that comes with the programme – Y7 pupils having another person who’s not a teacher, who’s more on their level and closer to their age, and who actively wants to help them out, twice a week, every week. The opportunity that they have over the course of the year to build real positive relationships is exceptional.
The identity and accreditation definitely makes a difference too – the Y10s are proud to call themselves the Franklin Scholars, and knowing that they are part of a network of students around the country working towards the same goals helps to spur them on.
While I knew this already, running the programme has reminded me how important it is to remove any barriers to learning early on in a student’s education, as it can have such a big impact later on. The transition from primary to secondary is a time of challenge for many pupils and it’s the single most important moment to put the right provision in place. Peer-to-peer support is a powerful tool to aid in this.
I have definitely enjoyed the experience. Simply seeing the students interacting with each other is enough to make it all worthwhile!
Franklin Scholars is a peer-mentoring programme to ease the transition from primary to secondary school for vulnerable students (e.g. students with low self-confidence or challenges in literacy), while equipping Y10s with academic mentoring and leadership skills.
Through the programme, both year groups are given the opportunity to develop their confidence, resilience and socialisation skills; all of which leads to raising their academic attainment.