As both inspirational role models and academic coaches, our City Year Mentors are needed now more than ever; to help teachers tackle pandemic-driven challenges from curriculum catch up to improved well-being.
Impact of the pandemic on pupils furthest from opportunity
(Source: Social Mobility Commission, State of the Nation 2021 report)
Almost 5% of pupils’ education career. 1.5M children had no access to a laptop when schools closed.
Pupils eligible for free school meals vs their peers in autumn 2020.
Pupils categorised as disadvantaged vs 22% of their peers in 2020.
Learning loss has disproportionately affected disadvantaged students, who in general lacked access to digital infrastructure, had less face-to-face time with teachers, did not have quiet or sufficient spaces to work, and were less likely to have degree-qualified parents to help guide their learning.
The world started to go downhill with COVID and the sectors that needed help were education and volunteering. I got in touch with City Year and the rest is history. I’ve learnt how powerful a school is in a child’s life and the amazing difference that a small group of volunteers can make.
It is hugely impressive to know that so many City Year volunteers have given a year of their lives to support young people in schools. It is a great way to help build a better future and learn key skills whilst helping others.
The young adults who volunteer with City Year UK have always been an intrinsic and flexible part of life in our partner schools. In March 2020, that put them in a unique position. When so much came to a standstill and schools were closed to all but key worker children and the most vulnerable, they continued to serve as an extended part of their school team.
Alongside teachers, our City Year Mentors largely moved online but 10% voluntarily chose to serve in school, including right through the Easter holidays as schools stayed open to provide care options for key workers. A further 50% of our City Year Mentors returned to school during their partial reopening in June and July 2020, while the remainder continued to provide virtual support from home to those pupils still at home.
As the pandemic developed, so did we. In 2020-21, we focused on catch up and well-being, adding an extra volunteer to each school team and increasing the number of focus list pupils supported 1:1 by 54% compared with 2019-20. We introduced new social and emotional activities to ease the anxiety of those who had not been in a physical classroom for over five months.
Even as we welcomed pupils back into school, we ensured we were able to deliver the programme virtually as required; not just for future lockdowns but as ongoing support for isolating pupils. For many of our volunteers, in-person mentoring for pupils in school, alongside online sessions for those at home, became the ‘new normal’.
“Having a City Year team during the pandemic helped support students online and easing them back into school. Great role models and enthusiasm throughout the school year.”
Teacher, secondary school, West Midlands, 2020-21
During lockdown, one of my focus list pupils could not access online learning at all. Her mum called the school to specifically ask for me to continue to mentor her, as she said her daughter had really benefited from my mentoring while at school. It was great to hear positive parental feedback!