BAME Mentoring Programme

How role models can help to close the ethnicity gap

Aims

The mentoring programme is designed to address the lack of BAME role models in education settings in Sussex, to encourage BAME students in Years 9 to 11 to explore the option of going to university and understand more about what this entails, and to impact on the attainment of those involved.  It also works to provide BAME university students with an opportunity to grow their communication, coaching and mentoring skills.

During the mentoring work, some families said they felt subject to unconscious bias inside and outside of school. While not an original project aim, this led to the design of unconscious bias and conscious inclusion training for school staff to provide them with the knowledge, framework and opportunity to cast a critical eye over the practices, policies and procedures within their schools. 

METHODOLOGY

The project was delivered via three key interlinking strands:

Uni:school mentoring
Students from the University of Brighton volunteered their time to mentor a BAME secondary school student who had asked to participate. Both the uni:school and peer-to-peer mentoring took place over six weekly sessions. The mentoring took place for one hour a week for five weeks. On the sixth week the students visited the university campus with their mentors, and had an informative and fun session about life at university. Eight sessions of CPD took place with teachers. In order that all stakeholders could gain full benefit comprehensive selection, information and training was carried out before the start of the mentoring. 

Peer-to-peer mentoring
Due to positive feedback from students, parents, staff and the institutions involved, there has been a natural progression from uni:school mentoring to a package of peer-to-peer mentoring. Older secondary school students in participating schools have been recruited to mentor younger pupils following a similar programme as that used in uni:school. A focus group took place with previous BAME mentees from one of the participating schools. Year 10 and 11 students were asked what they would have wanted to know in order to navigate successfully as a BAME student through Years 7 and 8. The results of this focus group helped to inform the design of the peer-to-peer mentoring.

Both mentoring programmes are underpinned by a comprehensive toolkit.

Inclusion CPD for teaching staff
A package of training on unconscious bias and conscious inclusion has been developed for all school staff. This training has been designed to inform and educate staff about the persistent and negative experiences unique to people of colour. Acknowledging that unconscious bias is a normal part of a functioning human being, but also that it can lead to prejudice or unfair actions towards others, is the first step to making positive change. The training looks at conscious inclusion and facilitates a space where school staff identify how practices in the classroom and school policies or systems can be made more inclusive. 

The instruments for collecting feedback were: pre- and post- questionnaires to students and mentors, post questionnaires to teachers and parents, diary sheets, formal feedback, supervision discussions and group discussions.

IMPACT

The programmes gave BAME students and pupils the opportunity to talk about their experiences, studies and aspirations, and had a direct and positive impact on their confidence, wellbeing, motivations and aspirations. 

BAME uni:school mentoring was delivered in 11 secondary schools in Sussex, and 112 BAME school pupils have had a BAME university student as a mentor.

93% of those mentored reported an increase in confidence during the final mentoring session.​

96% of mentors reported an increase in communication skills at the end of the programme.​

100% of schools would recommend the BAME mentoring programme to other schools.

All of the parents who responded said they felt the programme had contributed to a positive school experience for their child.​

The peer-to-peer mentoring has been delivered in seven secondary schools in Sussex. One school reported a reduction in incidents of casual racism in the two half terms following an anti-racism assembly (one of the activities in the toolkit).

Some mentors said they felt more confident about opening up to adults in the school about their experiences. Some mentors reported that the project had opened up conversations with their parents.

Eight sessions of unconscious bias and conscious inclusion training via a mix of whole school, SLT and elective CPD were delivered in the secondary schools that took part in the mentoring. Positive feedback from school included the following comment: ‘I learnt about unconscious bias when studying for my PGCE but felt that the CPD has re-highlighted and solidified the importance of the issue in my mind. It’s made me much more conscious of the issues that many of our students will unfortunately face, and the role I may play in that. It certainly gives me a lot of food for thought for my own practice.

KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Involve positive BAME role models as a consistent approach throughout the mentoring programme, including at celebratory or end-of-project events.
  • Rates of feedback are much higher when it is incorporated within a mentoring session, rather than asking for it after the programme has concluded.
  • The initial contact with the school needs to be via a member of the senior leadership team. When this is the case, the programme is given validity within the school.
  • Identify one key contact person within the school for the duration of the programme.
  • Provide plenty of directed resources for mentors to use with mentees.
  • Ask for feedback throughout the mentoring programme so it can be improved where possible as you go along. 

TALKING POINTS

  • How can schools be more inclusive environments for their students of colour?
  • Should schools use the BAME student voice to find out what they are doing well and where improvements or changes may need to be made? How can schools do this effectively and safely?
  • A constant issue that arises during mentoring is of students of colour having to deal with racist banter, bullying and micro-aggressions. Other than having a consistent policy around sanctions for this behaviour, what other things can schools and colleges do?
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PROJECT SUMMARY

Context

Nationally we know that there is an attainment gap between BAME pupils and their white counterparts. Despite the changing demographic of many areas of Sussex, where the population is becoming increasingly diverse, we also know that there is a low percentage of teachers who are visibly BAME. This results in a lack of positive role models for BAME pupils to identify with and look up to.

Duration

The project is ongoing.

Partners

Brighton University, secondary schools in Sussex (11 in uni:school) – Blatchington Mill, Dorothy Stringer, The Eastbourne Academy, St Catherine’s College, Ifield Community College, The Hastings Academy, Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Peacehaven Community School, and Seaford Head, Ratton and Hove Park Schools.

Funding source

NCOP (now Uni Connect)