Mr Lydon tells us about some of the benefits growing numbers of students are seeing from their involvement in the scheme, both as mentor and mentee.
He points out that short term aims of the mentor programme are to get as many Sixth Form students as possible actively inspiring younger members of the school; helping to build what he calls a ‘vertical’ community.
For the mentor, involvement represents an opportunity to develop communication skills and empathy while giving back to the community and very often students cite the latter as their primary reason for applying. While, for the mentee, involvement offers a safe space to discuss how they are finding school life, and the opportunity to meet and get to know older member of our community. “Above all, for both mentor and mentee, it is an opportunity for positivity and kindness amidst the busyness of school life,” he says. “Some students are rewarded with other leadership roles as a result of being a mentor, but that must not be the primary reason for becoming involved.”
Mr Lydon explains that applications for mentoring open by October half term, with training beginning shortly afterwards. Applicants are asked to outline how they would approach the role, recall a time when someone helped them and pitch an idea for a resource or a form session that they would deliver. Following appointment, the mentors – a core group of around 60, in the latest round – visit different form groups each Tuesday.
Training takes three to four weeks and forms part of the wider Lower Sixth Diploma Programme which includes community service. Mentor training includes safeguarding training delivered by Miss Ward and Mr Powell and the plan is to expand the programme so that other age groups are involved due to popular demand and the clear, positive impact of the programme.
Some of the Lower Sixth mentors also choose to be peer mentors and meet students one-to-one on this basis, while a few Sixth Formers are also subject mentors. They may focus on a language, for instance. “This is a growing aspect of mentoring,” Mr Lydon explains. “More and more students are keen to become peer mentors. Anecdotally, many have said it’s their favourite thing about being in the Sixth Form and we currently have some mentors working with members of the Maths department and the German and Learning Support departments as subject mentors.”
Sixth Form students chat to JBugs, and younger years around all sorts of topics, from the demands of academic life, to
pressures around mental health, and social demands and stresses. Other topics have included cultural values, time management, coping with exams and communication skills. Although sometimes they may choose simply to do a quiz or play a game: “This all helps to build a community. We find it’s quite comforting for some children to have that routine every Tuesday morning and it’s great for the younger students when older students say hello to them!”
There is an element of matchmaking to the peer mentoring and the team works with Heads of Year on this. Mentors also liaise with Form Tutors about potential topics. There is much discussion and a high ratio of mentors to younger students, with mentors frequently asking the younger students what they might like to discuss.
“We tend to receive referrals from Heads of Year and Form tutors, and increasingly subject teachers, too. Mr Coma and I then allocate a Sixth Form mentor we think would work with the younger student based on their shared interests or relevant life experience,” adds Mr Lydon. “This scheme is not new but it’s growing and it’s hugely rewarding. As an English teacher this helps to give me a sense of the whole school community vertically. Mentor and mentee seem to get equal amounts out of it – I wish I’d had mentoring schemes when I was at school!”
“It has been great to develop relationships with younger members of the school community. I feel my communication skills have improved as a result of this, whilst it has been good to share ideas and thoughts with my mentee.” Eva Haunstetter
“The mentoring programme is valuable as a way to connect the lower years with the Sixth Form and to facilitate a mutually beneficial sharing of experiences and perspectives. It’s been a fantastic and enriching experience.” Ben de Sousa
“I was able to guide the JBugs in their start to school and we were able to form a dynamic as a small group. In peer mentoring, I was able to personally connect with my mentee. Being able to say hello to my mentees around school just made my school day even better.” Ella Sullivan-Martin
“Having enjoyed being mentored in the lower years, I had looked forward to becoming a mentor for a while. The experience certainly exceeded my expectations and I particularly liked the bonds that I formed – especially when they taught me how to do origami for the first time!” David Aisa Miller
Taken from In Trinity Autumn 2022. Trinity School, Croydon is an independent boys’ secondary day school, with a co-educational Sixth Form.
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