Primary learning mentor Ayub Malik explains why he is proud to be working with children experiencing barriers to learning

I work as a learning mentor with children aged between five and 11 at Marsden Community Primary School in Nelson, Lancashire. Our school was one of the four original full service extended schools in Lancashire and provides a wide range of services to pupils, parents and the wider community during school and after school hours. The school consists of approximately 98% children of Pakistani Muslim heritage. I started working for the school in January 2005 and my post was funded through the East Lancashire EiC (Excellence in Cities) which is now known as ELEIP (East Lancashire Education Improvement Partnerships). I was the last member to join the newly developed pupil support team, which consisted of two behaviour support workers and a learning mentor. The pupil support team is an extension of the extended services team. I am responsible to the social inclusion strand coordinator who oversees my mentoring work during school hours and also to the extended services manager who oversees my work out of school hours. I have benefitted from the training and resources I have received and this has equipped me with the knowledge and skills to deliver my work effectively. My role as a learning mentor involves working with children experiencing barriers to learning which could be related to social, emotional, health or personal reasons. If a child is referred for behaviour, then the referral is usually passed onto the behaviour support workers (BSW). Otherwise referrals come to me. Before any work is done with a child, it is very important for me to find out as much as possible about them. This information could be about the child’s family, his/her interests, past test/SATs results, diet, attendance, punctuality, sleep times, medical conditions etc. This information helps me to build a profile of the child and is useful in finding any barriers that are hindering their progress. Having met the child, we would discuss the reason for their referral, make an agreement (contract) of what is expected from each other and set agreed targets from which I then make an eight to 12 week action plan. The package of support may involve me working one-to-one or in a group with children in and outside of the classroom; referring the child to the breakfast club if they are not eating in the morning; working with parents to ensure their child is getting enough sleep so they are not too tired in the morning to concentrate; or if necessary, referring the child to other agencies. I am in regular contact with and work in collaboration with the education welfare officer (EWO), school nurse, educational psychologist, teaching and non-teaching staff, and children social care services etc. If multi-agency support is required, strategies are then put into place to help combat barriers to learning. Other times, children just need to be signposted to lunch and after-school clubs to develop self-esteem, confidence or social skills. After the period of holistic intervention, a review takes place between the mentor and class teacher to discuss whether the child has achieved their targets and if progress has been made. At this stage it will be decided whether ongoing support is required or whether the child can be exited. Whichever the case, the child and his/her parents are notified accordingly. An evaluation of the whole process is then done by myself, the pupil and parents.

Day 10
On average my learning mentor caseload is 15 pupils but I also work with all children in Year 5 and Year 6 through what we call ‘Day 10’. This is an initiative developed by Marsden Primary School for effective planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) cover for teaching staff. Each KS2 year group is supported every tenth day for the whole day by relevant support staff, learning mentor, behaviour support workers and the sports and arts manager. Sessions delivered include ICT skills, thinking skills, sports, PSHE and citizenship. I am responsible for delivering PSHE and citizenship during ‘Day 10’ in accordance with the QCA guidelines. Aspects of the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) pack are also incorporated in topics such as bullying, relationships and transition.

A typical working day I work from 8.45 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Thursday and 8.45 am – 3.15 pm on a Friday. Every Monday morning I schedule my work onto a timetable and ensure I see all my mentees at least twice a week as well as giving myself ample time to plan activities and complete any necessary administrative duties.

  • 08.45 am – I work in the infants’ yard from 8.45 am -9.10 am, welcoming parents and children into school and at the same time addressing punctuality issues. It was identified during the previous academic year that many children from Foundation and KS1 were coming late to school. As a result of working in the infant yard and standing at the doors in the mornings, I have been able to establish a relationship with many parents and their children and there has been a positive impact on punctuality. The advantage of my being bilingual, has given many parents the opportunity to ask questions relating to courses organised by the extended services team or other information regarding school activities. Some parents may ask about their child’s progress and many will ask if I can convey or translate messages to their child’s teacher.
  • 09.10 am – The morning is usually spent working with children unless there are any meetings scheduled. This work is usually done outside class in a one-to-one situation or in small groups. At times work is done in class to support pupils amongst their peers with their class work and to help raise their confidence and resilience levels.
  • 12.15 – 1.15 pm – I deliver five lunch time clubs targeted at children in KS1 who are in need of additional support. I run games clubs, fun clubs (see opposite) and a handwriting club.
  • 1.45 pm – I continue working with my mentees according to my weekly timetable until the bell rings at 3.20 pm.
  • 3.20 pm – 4.30 pm – I am currently running four after school clubs for KS 1 and 2 pupils. I run three study support clubs targeted at pupils identified by class teachers as having little support at home and/or that struggle to complete their work. I also facilitate a computer club with technical support from the ICT technician. On average there are ten pupils in each club.

Other aspects of my role
Alongside my mentoring work, I also organise and deliver school projects. Currently I am running the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) project from the National Literacy Trust to promote reading amongst disadvantaged children. This has involved working closely with parents, school librarian and the children’s librarian at the local library. I am also currently the joint coordinator working towards and producing an evidence file for quality in study support (QiSS) status for Marsden Primary. As a learning mentor I am involved in attending multi-agency meetings. These meetings are held in school every half-term. Members of the multi-agency steering group include the headteacher, who is also the child protection officer, extended services manager, SENCO, education welfare officer, child and adolescent mental health worker, school nurse and a representative from the local Sure Start programme. The aim of this meeting is to provide multi-agency support to targeted pupils. In some cases this may also mean support for the parents of the pupil. An action plan is drawn up for each pupil identified and feedback is provided at the next multi-agency meeting. I am also responsible for attending case conferences with Children Social Care to support children I work with. These can be stressful at times due to the nature of the case conference and it is important to have good support networks set up at school to allow progress to be made whilst not compromising on confidentiality.     I am accountable for my work and must provide evidence of the impact and progress made by the pupils that I work with. The pupil support/ extended services team holds an annual IMPACT day each academic year. As a learning mentor, I have to present several case studies of pupils I have supported and evidence positive impact on, for example, attitude, attendance and attainment As a team, we also reflect on achievement and formulate new priorities for the coming academic year. These priorities are aligned with the school improvement priorities (SIP) and the Every Child Matters (ECM) outcomes. This exercise has been recognised as good practice by the DCSF.   

In conclusion

In summary I thoroughly enjoy my work and I am proud to be a member of a unique team that is making a huge impact on the lives of our future citizens. I hope that the policy makers continue to see the relevance of the excellent work that schools are doing to meet the ECM agenda and continue to support this invaluable work. 

Fun clubs The fun clubs that I facilitate support the development of children’s social, personal and emotional skills. They help to complement and extend the work teachers are trying to do in class and support the ECM agenda. Indeed, they were set up in response to teachers’ recognition that many children in KS 1 had low self-esteem and lacked confidence and needed additional support to actively engage in learning and take full part in school life. Initially, when I set up the clubs, Year 1 and 2 children came together but we realised that it would be more beneficial for the children from the two year groups to be separated. This way the older children would not be dominating the group and the younger ones would have the opportunity to participate fully. The Fun Clubs aim to build self-esteem and confidence in pupils and also to help children to:

  • learn about sharing and turn taking;
  • understand emotions
  • interact better with peers
  • build listening and communication skills
  • make new friends
  • build personal and social skills
  • build thinking skills
  • enjoy and have some fun.

The clubs have a structured programme with varied activities to help children overcome shyness and develop self esteem and confidence. The sessions are delivered using team building exercises, circle time and group work activities. Board games and sports are also used at times to help pupils to enjoy and express themselves within their peer groups. As a result, much improvement has been seen in some of the children and positive feedback has been given by their class teachers regarding their behaviour and increased confidence levels. Moreover, some children who were emotionally withdrawn have shown signs of increased confidence and self-esteem in class, ie answering questions, participating in group activities, completing work on time etc. They are socialising better within their peer groups and some have made new friends.