Nicola Doward, Head Teacher, Stretford High School, Manchester

We decided to invite City Year UK to be part of our school because, despite all the staff we have, there will always be a group of children that slip through the net.

Those are what I call the ‘middle’ children. They’re not the highly gifted or the very vulnerable. A middle child is one that floats and can easily slip through the net.

I wanted to have more adults in the school who could see that middle child. That’s been the biggest benefit of City Year. On average we have had a team of six City Year mentors. Each was given a group of six middle children to look after in the first term – and 10 in the second. And it’s made a big difference.

Instead of just coasting along unnoticed, those middle children are being seen – and are rising to the challenge of what City Year is asking them to do, which is be in school early, and to learn to the best of their ability.

City Year mentors check these children are in every day. We’ve seen the attendance levels of these pupils rise. In the first half term of this academic year, none of the 36 kids assigned to City Year mentors were late.

The City Year mentors have a far bigger reach than just the children they are directly working with. Because the mentor sits with the children at our Breakfast Club and at lunch, and works with them not just in lesson time, but also in social time, they’re interacting with the child’s group of friends. And that group is often made up of middle children too.

You really know the difference that’s being made when you speak to these 36 children. And at a recent Governors’ Panel – where children who’ve had issues come in with their parents and talk to the school’s leadership team – one  child, who’s really turned their behaviour around, named their City Year mentor as the reason they’d done that.

That’s why I’d encourage other schools to do the same thing.