Learning Mentor

The Job and What's Involved

Learning mentors work with pupils in primary and secondary schools and colleges, helping them to overcome barriers to learning and reach their full potential. Barriers to learning can include many factors such as family problems, bereavement, bullying, low self-confidence and poor study skills.

Learning mentors manage a caseload of students who have been identified as needing support, helping them to understand and address the issues which are preventing them from learning.

The work of learning mentors can vary from school to school and is targeted to meet the needs of individual pupils, so job descriptions can differ. The role may involve:

  • Working with pupils on a one-to-one basis or in small groups.
  • Running clubs and drop-in sessions.
  • Agreeing targets for attendance, timekeeping and homework.
  • Helping pupils with study skills, revision and examination techniques.
  • Developing anti-bullying strategies.
  • Providing emotional support.
  • Helping pupils to modify their behaviour in school, for example by introducing them to anger management techniques.
  • Encouraging pupils to build constructive relationships with staff and fellow students.
  • Working with pupils' families.
  • Working closely with other professionals including teachers, education welfare officers and social workers.

Learning mentors usually work around 37 hours a week. Working with families and other tasks may involve some evening and weekend work. Full-time, term-time and part-time work may be available.

Mentors spend most of their time working in schools and colleges, but may meet students at their homes or other locations. They may have to attend meetings with other professionals.

Starting salaries may be around £14,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are currently around 14,000 learning mentors and they are usually employed directly by schools and colleges. The majority work in primary and secondary schools, but there are a few opportunities in special schools, further education colleges and other places such as Pupil Referral Units.

In some schools learning mentors have a shared role. For example, they may work as a learning support assistant/family liaison worker/attendance worker in the morning and learning mentor in the afternoon. In some areas, two or more schools may pool their resources to finance a learning mentor.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, on local authority websites and jobs bulletins (see www.direct.gov.uk for local authority contact details) and on www.eteach.com.

Successful applicants will be expected to pass a Criminal Records Bureau check before starting work.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements for learning mentors, although most employers require qualifications such as GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent, in English and maths. Some local authorities require a minimum NVQ/SVQ Level 3 qualification in a relevant subject. Many look for qualifications above this level, including relevant vocational or degree-level qualifications.

Previous experience of working with children and young people is often essential. A qualification in a subject such as counselling or mentoring can be an advantage. Some roles call for candidates with specific skills, such as skills in a particular language.

In some schools, candidates who are invited for interview may be observed interacting with staff and pupils. They may be given an exercise such as running a small discussion group.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The Children's Workforce Development Council has endorsed an induction training programme for newly appointed learning mentors.

Foundation degrees in Learning, Development and Support Services for children, young people and those who care for them are available at some universities and colleges. Liverpool John Moores University is also currently offering a Degree in Learning, Development and Support through distance learning.

NVQ's/SVQ's in Learning, Development and Support Services are available at Levels 3 and 4.

Local authorities provide additional short courses on relevant subjects such as study skills, emotional intelligence, learning styles, inclusion, anger management and working with children with learning difficulties.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A learning mentor should:

  • Have a genuine concern for the welfare of young people.
  • Have excellent communication skills.
  • Have excellent motivational skills.
  • Be able to understand issues from a young person's point of view.
  • Be able to engage young people and earn their trust.
  • Be able to develop good working relationships with people from a wide range of age groups and backgrounds.
  • Be non-judgemental.
  • Be patient.
  • Be able to develop links with other agencies that can help young people who are facing difficulties.
  • Be flexible in their approach to work.
  • Have good planning skills to manage a caseload.
  • Be able to cope with the emotional demands of the work.
  • Have a sound knowledge of the education system.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no set career progression for learning mentors, but it may be possible to progress to more senior learning mentor positions or broader support roles, for example inclusion manager or year head. Some learning mentors specialise in areas such as family liaison, supporting gifted and talented pupils, transition across all key stages, refugee and asylum seeker children and their families, or addressing behaviour-related issues.

With additional training and qualifications it may be possible to become a teacher.

Get Further Information

Children's Workforce Development Council,
3rd Floor, Friends Provident House,
13-14 South Parade, Leeds LS1 5QS
Tel: 0113 244 6311
Website: www.cwdcouncil.org.uk

Mentoring and Befriending Foundation,
1st Floor, Charles House, Albert Street,
Eccles, Manchester M30 0PW
Tel: 0161 787 8600
Website: www.mandbf.org.uk

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