Glasgow ‘extremely confident’ of saving mentoring scheme

Glasgow City Council now "extremely confident" that mentoring scheme can be saved

Glasgow City Council is “extremely confident” that the MCR Pathways mentoring programme can be saved, The Herald can exclusively reveal.

In February, we revealed that the ‘transformational’ scheme was at risk due to budget cuts, with the council planning to withdraw funding for school-based co-ordinators that have been described as essential to the functioning of the programme. 

Now, the council’s City Treasurer, Councillor Ricky Bell, has stated that work on ‘alternative options’ means that he believes that the service will be able to continue.

The latest development came after The Herald approached the council about an email exchange from February now released in an FoI. The emails dated two days before the SNP-Green budget was passed, in which officials confirmed that the proposed savings from the MCR Pathways programme involved the loss of all staff and the “deletion” of the service.

Cllr Bell, who had enquired about the impact of the cuts on the continuation of the programme, was advised that although questions had been asked about “whether the service reduction could be phased”, the total savings figures in the council budget “were in relation to the full deletion of all of the MCR co‐ordinators.” Another email from the same chain had stated that “this saving would result in the programme being unable to continue.”

The Herald has been told that, in response to this information, the MCR saving was then combined with other budget proposals in order to allow councillors to look for other ways to finds the necessary savings. This could be achieved by running the scheme with fewer staff, or by raising money elsewhere and using this to protect MCR Pathways – although additional resources are also being sought to address issues like a planned reduction in teacher numbers.

To date, no specific details on how this is to be achieved have been provided, and the assumed saving of £961,000 remains a part of the council’s budget assumptions, meaning that if an alternative approach cannot be found, the mentoring programme will lose all of its staff and will be closed down.

However, Cllr Bell has now confirmed his belief that the scheme will be saved and advised that a “new model” for the delivery of the programme will be published soon.

He told The Herald: “I am extremely confident we will find a solution to keep MCR mentoring in our schools.

“We had to take some very difficult decisions in unprecedented financial times to balance a three-year budget that plugs a £108million gap.

“No one wanted to take them, and we knew that they would not be palatable.

“But the reality is the work begins when the savings need to be implemented by officers.

“We knew that if we did nothing – and that taking out all the funding would result in the programme stopping – and had verbal conversations with officers prior to the budget.

“But we did do something – we included the savings within the income and revenue generation options so that we can squeeze savings from elsewhere or find additional revenue.

“I have asked officers to produce alternative options to let us continue to deliver the MCR mentoring programme in our schools as we are aware of the impact and value it has in complementing the work done by our schools, teachers, and staff.

“The new model will be published in the very near future.”

Iain MacRitchie, founder of MCR Pathways, welcomed the council’s commitment to saving the scheme: “It is fantastic to hear of the council’s commitment to MCR and to ending the uncertainty of the last three months. The coordinators and the 2,000 young people across the city will be hugely relieved.  

“Despite more than three quarters of the MCR young people having an additional support need and 70% of them living in our most deprived communities, they thrive on MCR mentoring and it’s life-changing impact. With the support of their coordinator and mentor, they have consistently achieved, attained and progressed far in excess of all national averages and benchmarks. 

“Keeping all these relationships in place is not just transformational for education outcomes but has a dramatic effect on confidence and self-esteem to help empower the young people to realise their full potential. We are very grateful for the opportunity to continue to support the young people and look forward to another decade of pioneering partnership with GCC.”

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