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In 2021 to 2022, we empowered 151 diverse young people to tackle educational inequality. Read about their unique, holistic role which has become all the more essential since 2020

Post-pandemic challenges in schools

Some 4.3 million children are growing up in poverty in the UK – around 9 pupils in a class of 30. They faced worse outcomes before the pandemic, experienced more learning loss and continue to be worst affected by the long tail of COVID-19 disruption.

“I saw that young people struggle to articulate their feelings… it’s become particularly striking in the context of the pandemic and lockdowns. Students at my school found themselves in serious trouble for not reacting to staff in the best way, whether it was verbally or even physically, leading to repeated sanctions… Young people have difficulty communicating their emotions, to the point where they either bottle it all up and allow it to damage their mental health or act out every time.” –Neil, City Year Mentor, City Year London

Ongoing impact of the pandemic on pupils furthest from opportunity

Source: COSMO, a major new national longitudinal study of 13,000 young people

More likely to report feeling behind

45% of pupils in the most deprived schools vs 31% of pupils in schools with better off intakes

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Higher attendance avoidance

50% of pupils categorised as disadvantaged in Years 10 and 11 missed at least 10% of in-person sessions vs 35% categorised as non-disadvantaged

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Worse well-being

In spring 2022, Ofsted reported: “Many leaders said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on some pupils’ mental health and emotional well-being… they continued to have concerns about pupils having lower resilience and confidence and greater anxiety.”

“…some schools were finding that behaviour continued to be a challenge in January 2022. Leaders said that pupils’ level of engagement and ability to stay on task continued to be worse than pre-pandemic.”

Ofsted, Education recovery in schools: spring 2022

The need for an integrated solution

There is a growing body of research showing the association between educational attainment and socio-emotional development.

Evidence from the US

Recent large scale studies of City Year by the Everyone Graduates Centre in the US, found that students’ social-emotional skills are as strong a predictor of academics as family background and that making gains in social-emotional skills is like gaining an entire school year of achievement growth in maths or English (across Grades 3 to 10).

The findings emphasise that human-centred, relationship-focused, school-based interventions such as City Year’s can be successful in developing students’ social-emotional skills along with their academic outcomes (directly and indirectly through improved social-emotional skills)."

Balfanz, R. and Byrnes V. (2021), 'Connecting social-emotional development and academic indicators across multiple years’

Key points - The Everyone Graduates Centre and City Year

More support, stronger outcomes

Students receiving more support from City Year tended to show stronger attendance, academic and social-emotional outcomes

Most effective for those most in need

The lower a student’s prior level was, academic or social-emotional, the stronger the relationship between the City Year intervention and the student’s spring outcomes

Importance of integration

Greater impact is seen when integrating social-emotional skills into academic interventions. E.g. incorporating goal-directed behaviour while learning maths

Source: The Everyone Graduates Centre and City Year

‘In the moment’ needs

The research also confirmed something that we see every day at City Year UK; that social-emotional responses are influenced by what is going on in a pupil’s life, as well as their interactions with teachers, peers, parents and others at any given time. Schools need to respond ‘in the moment’ and facilitate positive, supportive relationships, whether that’s with teachers or other pupils.

The City Years ensure that they check on the child when they can see a change in his usual pattern of behaviour. They understand how to help him, which seems like a minor thing but it is very beneficial for him to cope in an independent manner without disrupting me during a lesson."

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A different kind of school practitioner

City Year Mentors are ideally suited to fulfil that role. They build rapport with pupils and partner with teachers. As near peers, they’re often able to bring their own experience of education and growing up to bear and crucially, because they support pupils in and out of class, they are often there when frustrations flare up.

City Years are really good. My mentor helps me to calm me down when I’m having a bad day."

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