MENTORING charity, MCR Pathways, is helping to provide a digital lifeline to the country’s most disadvantaged young people living in homes without computers and internet access.
It is feared these young people are being left behind adding to a growing crisis in the attainment gap. MCR will especially focus on school leavers to support them individually through this unprecedented period of uncertainty and anxiety.
Since lockdown in the UK, the award-winning mentoring charity has connected over 1,300 young people with their staff and mentors via video calls, live chat and emails.
As one young person, Chloe, said of her mentor: “You need someone to remind you that you can do it, that you’re going somewhere and that the only thing that will get you there is not giving up. That’s what a mentor does. Being isolated in lockdown, it’s even more important to know that the work you’re doing is for something, that someone believes in your future and just that someone actually cares.”
Now, helped with funding from the Scottish Government and JP Morgan, MCR will provide internet accessand computers for up to 300 young people who live in households without access to the vital support network of the school and their mentors. Working in partnership with local authorities and schools, MCR will extend its comprehensive virtual mentoring programme further across the country.
Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Aileen Campbell, said: “MCR Pathways provides crucial support for children and young people across Scotland so it’s fitting that we are able to provide this funding during Mental Health Awareness Week to allow them to continue to provide this support digitally during the current pandemic.
“We need to continue to support all of our children’s health and wellbeing, but even more so disadvantaged children, who often rely on school life for a safe, nurturing and supportive environment. This additional funding will enable more children and young people and their families to maintain the vital mentoring relationships that have been developed through the programme.”
Commenting, Iain MacRitchie, founder of MCR Pathways, said: “Since the start of the lockdown, our team has worked tirelessly to maintain the crucial relationships between volunteer mentors and our young people. Sadly, lockdown has highlighted deep-rooted inequalities with some young people being unable to access the internet and do any school work from home. With schools to remain closed until after the summer, we needed to act now to prevent young people from feeling isolated and disconnected.
“We are delighted to have secured funding from the Scottish Government and JP Morgan to enable us to provide internet access and equipment for at least 300 young people. The strong relationships between our school staff and young people have enabled us to quickly identify those most in need, and to reconnect them with their mentors.
“This now marks the longest time young people have been absent from school and we have yet to quantify the impact on all sections of society. One-to-one support and the dedication of our committed teachers is desperately needed to limit the serious and significant challenges faced by our disadvantaged young people during lockdown. We simply cannot allow the attainment gap to widen even further.
“Our commitment to helping every care-experienced and disadvantaged young person in Scotland secure equal education and life chances, is stronger than ever. The impact of the virus on our young people is huge and every inequality is exacerbated, but it has also made us even more determined to do whatever it takes for each and every one of them.”
Hang Ho, head of Global Philanthropy, J.P. Morgan, said: “It’s more important than ever to support these young people. In the current environment, the internet is crucial for accessing learning and essential school resources. Ensuring young people stay connected to their mentors and continue to benefit from that relationship has never been more critical.”
The programme has received praise from mentors and young people for the range of virtual meeting options it has introduced to facilitate ongoing relationships.
MCR mentor, Bernadine Blair, recently had her first video call with her mentee whom she normally meets weekly at Bannerman High School, Glasgow.
She said: “It was so good to catch up with my mentee. To me, it was like catching up with a friend that you haven’t seen for a while and was lovely! We discussed anything and everything. I think it is really important to continue face-to-face conversations during these strange and difficult times as there is more pressure on individuals, not only physically with social distancing, but mentally.”
Bernadine’s mentee was equally pleased at the opportunity to meet online: “Meeting by video chat was the best experience I could have had with my mentor, it was great chatting to someone from outside my family.”
At the core of the MCR programme are mentoring sessions between a young person and their mentor who is fully trained to listen and encourage a young person. Building caring and trusting relationships is at the heart of the recent Care Review Recommendations and MCR mentoring is a highly effective way for this to be implemented.
Notes for editor:
MCR Pathways is a multi-award-winning mentoring programme helping Scotland’s care-experienced and disadvantaged young people achieve the same educational outcomes, career opportunities and life chances as all other young people.
Founded in Glasgow in 2007, MCR Pathways currently supports over 2,300 young people each week and across ten local authorities.
At the core of the MCR Programme are 50-minute weekly in-school meetings between a young person and their mentor, who listens and provides encouragement.
MCR has been quick to adapt to the Lockdown closure of schools and is now also providing opportunities for young people to keep in contact via virtual mentoring options.
MCR mentors come from all walks of life and commit to supporting a young person in school for a minimum of a year, ideally two. They are trained and supported by MCR throughout the mentoring relationship.
External research shows that MCR mentoring has made a significant and lasting impact on young people’s confidence, belief and self-esteem, as well as on school staying-on rates, attainment and progression to positive destinations – college, university, and employment.
A three-year independent study conducted by ScotCen – using internationally renowned research methods – was published in January 2020, showing the transformational impact of MCR’s relationship-based mentoring programme.
The findings show an average 25.3 percentage point increase in the number of care-experienced mentored young people progressing to university, college or a job.
Critically the report also showed the attainment gap was closed, with those achieving one or more qualifications at National 5, an average 21 percentage point improvement from 66.8 per cent to 87.8 per cent. The full report can be found here.
The programme has received multiple awards, including Glasgow’s Inspiring City Education Award in 2019 and the UK-wide Leaving Care Award from Children and Young People Now. and was recently included in The Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care.
The MCR Pathways Programme was set up by Glaswegian social entrepreneur, Iain MacRitchie who previously advised over 100 businesses and acted as executive chairman/CEO of 18 different companies during his career. In 2007, Iain set up his charitable foundation and dedicated five years as a full-time volunteer to establish MCR Pathways nationally. Iain was awarded Glasgow’s St Mungo’s Medal in 2017, a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Herald Diversity Awards 2019 and named as one of the 2019 Class of Influential Leaders worldwide by AACSB International.
The MCR Programme is actively supported by the local authorities in which it operates as well by the Scottish Government, Civil Service Local, The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, multiple universities and colleges and a growing number of key Scottish organisations, including RBS, JP Morgan, Edrington, Lloyds Banking Group, STV and the Wheatley Group.
In addition to one-to-one relationship focused mentoring, MCR Programme supports young people through group work and their Talent Taster Programme which introduces young people to work, Higher and Further Education, and Arts and Sports experiences.
For more information please go to www.mcrpathways.org and or MCR’s YouTube channel to hear young people, mentors and partners tell their stories.
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