Our impact in schools 2019-2021
Volunteering full-time in-school, online, or a mix of the two, our mentors have found new ways to make their role work. At the heart of their success is the trust they build with pupils to break through barriers and the integration of social and emotional learning with new academic skills.
A holistic approach
Volunteer mentors coach ‘focus list’ pupils on how to manage frustrations and understand fractions, build confidence and improve comprehension. They tutor 1:1 and contribute to a school environment where everyone feels they belong and is inspired to be the best they can be.
Academic, social & emotional skills
There’s growing recognition that social and emotional skills aren’t just ‘nice to have’. They underpin academic learning and are the capabilities that set pupils up for success in and out of school. In 2020-21, alongside measurement of attendance, behaviour and curriculum progress, we introduced new tools to track competencies ranging from self-awareness to relationship skills and self management to personal responsibility.
We wanted to bring City Year on board to support children with their learning and provide additional support to target classes. That brief has been met and exceeded by the commitment from the team and the willingness to go above and beyond in the effort shown to our school and our children.
Pupils’ progress in the pandemic
Morning reading intervention has been organised and delivered by City Year and the whole team has been superb. Progress made by students has been outstanding and the team has been reliable and motivational.
What pupils told us
"My volunteer mentor helps me build good relationships with my teacher"
"My volunteer mentor helps me build good relationships with other students"
"My volunteer mentor helps me to understand my school work"
said they tried to follow the example their volunteer mentor sets
Source: End of year survey (2020-21) of nearly 200 secondary school focus list pupils
The improvement made by students has made an impact on their attitude to learning in lessons across the academy and has had an impact on reading ages. Average improvement in reading ages of the last cohort of Year 7 was 15 months and for Year 8 it was 13 months.
New measurement tool: DESSA
In 2020-21 City Year UK introduced the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA), an observation tool completed by our volunteers to measure social and emotional capabilities of pupils across eight categories:
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
- Goal-directed behaviour
- Personal responsibility
- Decision making
- Optimistic thinking
DESSA helps volunteer mentors identify where pupils are strong and where they might need some extra help or opportunities to grow. Each term, City Year UK calculates a social-emotional composite rating which categorises pupils as either showing ‘need’ for more support, being classified as ‘typical’, or showing ‘strength’.
Between Term 1 and Term 3, across the whole of City Year UK, the percentage of focus list pupils showing ‘need’ fell from 27% to 14%, while the number showing overall ‘strength’, increased from 8% to 14%.
I am a strong believer that school is not just reading books and gaining knowledge but doing team building activities, being creative, being unique and making memories that the students can cherish for the rest of their lives.
School spotlight: integrating social, emotional and academic learning
At Brownhills Ormiston Academy, a City Year West Midlands team was given responsibility for improving behaviour and supporting teachers’ academic push to enable pupils to catch up on missed learning. Improvements were recorded across all year groups but Year 10 focus list pupils made particular progress:
improved their behaviour
improved or maintained their DESSA rating across at least 7 of the 8 categories
improved their grade in maths
improved their grade in English
This year my City Year Mentor helped me with my concentration and to have fun!
In an NAHT survey, 63% of school leaders said that addressing the social and emotional burdens of the pandemic is a priority. Our volunteer mentors have time to listen and understand pupils’ worries. They also bring our positive culture to the classroom, corridors and playground; coaching pupils to manage their emotions, respect others, form friendships, show kindness, work in teams and solve problems.
93% of pupils supported 1:1 agreed that: “City Year helped them enjoy school”*
*Source: Survey of nearly 200 secondary school focus list pupils 2021
“My mentor has been like another friend to me as well as a teacher.”
Why mental health matters
suffering from a probable mental disorder, up from 1 in 9 in 2017
said their mental health had deteriorated since 2017
with a mental disorder nearly twice as likely to live in a household struggling financially compared to those without a mental disorder
said restrictions had made their life a little or much worse
Source: NHS Digital’s ‘Mental Health of Children and Young People in England’ survey (February / March 2021)
“One of my students had been out of school for 18 months, he hated it and suffered from anxiety. Initially I focused on bonding and creating a good relationship with him and set goals, one of which was to be in school for a whole day by the end of the year. He began doing English and maths and started to see that school isn’t as scary as he thought. Each lesson I’d slowly distance myself until I was no longer sitting next to him but would just check in. It is now the end of the year and he is in school for whole days and asking for extra sessions with me. He has come such a long way.” Faisal – Volunteer mentor, City Year West Midlands, 2020-21