Manchester Academy, in the heart of Moss Side in Manchester, is a vibrant, dynamic and forward-thinking learning community, which embraces diversity and is committed to ensuring the success of its students. An 11-19 co-educational school with a Sixth Form, Manchester Academy specialises in delivering programmes that enable employability and exploration of the arts. Manchester Academy is also an extremely diverse school community with over 70 languages spoken.
The school also faces some rather startling and unique challenges. The percentage of pupils eligible for and claiming free school meals in secondary schools in the UK has increased from 16.0% to 16.3%1 with the recognised benchmark measure of deprivation being 17%. At Manchester Academy, a staggering 67% of students claim free school meals.
Other sobering statistics include a turbulence factor of 25% amongst the School’s students, which means in one year, 25% of students will leave the School. They will either leave the catchment area due to housing issues or even leave the country due to immigration issues. The school then takes on a whole new influx of students and the cycle starts all over again.
Jane Delfino MBE is Director of Enterprise and Internationalism at Manchester Academy. Jane spoke recently about the involvement of Mosaic at the School and the importance of the role of mentors. Jane began: “We have a very small window of opportunity to reach these students; a brief moment where we can impact on their lives and their futures. I need Mosaic to help me make the young people of my Academy employable and productive citizens who give back to their communities in positive ways.”
Jane added: “Unfortunately it isn’t always that easy and a good education isn’t enough. If you don’t have good interpersonal skills, confidence in yourself, or you don’t know how to speak in an appropriate register, how to socialize, how to network, how to plan life and career goals you are at a huge disadvantage to your middle class peers.”
Jane continued: “So many of our young people do not come equipped with those middle class skills. Their home lives are chaotic and they often only have negative role models or are coping in isolation without an adult role model. It’s our job to make sure these young people know enough to have aspirations, and also to ensure that those aspirations are realistic and grounded in reality.
It is essential that the students collide with opportunities. We don’t have time to waste. For me, Mosaic mentors provide some of those collisions. The young people see professionals with high expectations and the collision happens!”
But what is it about the unique role of the mentor that can turn these collisions into opportunities? Jane added: “As a mentor, you are not the students’ friend. Your relationship with the young people has clear boundaries and everything you do and say provides a model for our young people to follow. They will also learn from the mentor that success, at whatever level takes time and commitment. Nothing comes easily and you have to put in the time to achieve your goals.”
Mosaic mentor and Chairman for Mosaic’s North West regional leadership group Nazir Afzal – Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West – came to the School for an hour to speak to a group of students who were interested in a career in law. He spoke about himself and his personal journey and he spoke about the law and his place in it. Jane observed: “It was when Nazir spoke about real cases he had experience of and real moral decision making and then challenged the students, then those students really understood. They spoke about that meeting for days after with their law teacher.”
It was a similar situation when Mosaic arranged for a doctor to come to the School and speak with the Year 10 students who want to be medics. Jane commented: “The visiting doctor gave a realistic picture of his life and his personal pathway. It’s so important that these students ground their aspirations in reality; getting accepted by a university to study medicine is tough! But there are other routes to a medical career. In partnership with Mosaic, we show these students that there are many, different ways to make their dreams and aspirations a reality.”
With a school as diverse as Manchester Academy, it is clear that when it comes to mentoring programmes, one size clearly can’t fit all. Jane added: “It was Mosaic’s willingness to tailor its programmes that really convinced me that this approach could work. The primary and secondary school mentoring programmes are accredited by the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation, which recognises the quality of the services; but for me it is the flexibility of the secondary school mentoring programme that makes all the difference. One school community is not the same as another and Mosaic knows this and works with it.
Our Year 8 history students were doing a project on immigration and Mosaic’s Regional Manager arranged for a series of business people to come in and be interviewed by the students. They were questioned about the journeys that they and their families had made, the positives and negatives and what they had done to get where they were. The students added this to their own research and produced a huge exhibition about immigration in Manchester.
I would encourage all business professionals to consider mentoring. What you do, when you commit to working with our young people is you help to shape lives, you help to change lives and sometimes you actually help to save lives.”
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