Mentoring cuts risk worsening teacher workload crisis

Glasgow City Council has been accused of 'taking a wrecking ball' to education services

Potential cuts to a city-wide pupil mentoring scheme will heap extra pressure on teachers whose workloads are already “at unsustainably high levels”, Glasgow City Council has been warned.

A new report from MCR Pathways has revealed that tens of thousands of hours of mentoring took place in the city last year alone, and confirms that participants are significantly more likely to successfully proceed to college, university or employment.

In February, we revealed that school-based co-ordinators for the programme were to be scrapped as part of Glasgow City Council’s recently agreed budget. Since then, graduates of the scheme, mentors, and one of Scotland’s leading judges have all hit out at the plans.

At the time, a council spokesperson falsely claimed that other councils do not employ co-ordinators, and stated that they were now “exploring other options” to manage it. This has been rejected by those running the scheme, who confirmed that the vast majority of co-ordinators are employed by councils, and explained that these positions are integral to the mentoring programme.

Co-ordinators are tasked with establishing relationships with young people, matching them with appropriate mentors, and maintaining their participation in the programme. Former mentees have previously told The Herald that “a pathways co-ordinator who is always in the school” was a vital component of their success.

The latest data from MCR Pathways shows that co-ordinators helped facilitate nearly 27,000 hours of mentoring last year in Glasgow. 70% of Glaswegian mentees live in the most deprived 20% of the country, and more than three quarters of them have one or more additional support need. Nationally, young people in these categories achieve fewer qualifications, and are less likely to go on to positive destinations, than their peers.

MCR Pathways reports that 84% of care-experienced mentees in Glasgow went on to college, university or employment – higher than both the local and national figures for care-experienced pupils without mentoring, which are 74% and 73% respectively.

Even when the Scottish Government’s less-stringent ‘positive destinations’ criteria are applied, outcomes for mentored young people with care experience exceed those for pupils not participating in the programme.

Participants are also more likely to achieve qualifications at levels 4, 5 and 6 – the latter of which includes Highers – than those who do not have the support of an MCR Pathways mentor.

Survey data also shows that mentees themselves believe that the programme has had a positive impact on their lives: more than 80% said that it had improved their confidence and self-belief, and 95% said that their mentor had been a good role model.

Mike Corbett, NASUWT Scotland National Official, told The Herald that teacher workload is “is already at unsustainably high levels” and warned that changes to MCR Pathways staffing arrangements will make the problem worse:

“If these co-ordinator posts are cut this threatens to heap even more work onto teachers, both by creating an expectation that teachers will step in to take on this work and through the negative impact which cutting the programme is likely to have on pupil behaviour, attendance and attainment. Add in the plans to cut hundreds of teaching posts as well and it is clear that this will have hugely negative implications for the quality of education provided to Glasgow’s children.

“The Scottish Government has promised to protect teacher numbers. It cannot stand by while Glasgow City takes a wrecking ball to education provision in our largest city.”

Founder of MCR Pathways, Iain MacRitchie, told The Herald that the scheme has “both an immediate and life-changing impact” for young people, and urged Glasgow City Council to reverse planned cuts to programme.

He also warned that cutting school-based co-ordinators “will make the programme impossible to deliver to the quality and impact our young people deserve,” and that doing so would also “place teachers and school staff under even more time and emotional pressure when the system can least afford it.”

“Young people in our care system and those disadvantaged in any way deserve the best of us and the best we have to offer.  Budget cuts should never determine lifetimes for our most vulnerable. They need one-to-one relationships in which they can trust, role models to help navigate the education system, career choices and life chances.

“Behind the huge gains are individuals who live in the most challenging of circumstances. Their situations don’t miraculously change. Education and the confidence and self-belief it promotes is what drives the change.

“MCR mentoring is one of the highest impacting and most cost effective ways to help young people to realise their potential. Why risk it?”

Leane McGuire, chair of the Glasgow City Parents Group, said: “The impending education cuts will reverberate across all schools in the coming three years. If crucial programmes like MCR Pathways and DYW face reductions, the burden will inevitably shift onto already overstretched teachers. With heightened workloads, there’s an increased risk of burnout.

“Coupled with the news of 450 teaching posts being axed, parents are understandably anxious.

“Glasgow, like many local authorities, champions positive destinations for secondary school leavers. However, threatening to reduce key services that support this undermines the commitment to our young people and their futures.”

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said:

“A review of our MCR mentoring co-ordinators is underway following the council budget in February.

“No decision has been taken to stop the programme and several options are being explored.

“The cross party, political oversight group will be made aware of the options, and we will keep staff and the relevant trade unions informed and updated of developments.”

Share This Post