As you embark on a mentoring program in your school, have you considered defining a clear approach to mentoring relationships? The following model of the mentoring process may help you to put all the elements for a successful program together.

A mentor is a guide, an advisor, someone on your side. Loyal, interested, trusted and, most importantly, experienced in areas that you may not be. A mentor is someone who will recognize, encourage, instruct and inspire you.

Gareth Lewis, in his book ‘The Mentoring Manager’, compares mentoring to a wheel. The hub, the spokes and the rim keep the wheel rigid, but having all of the necessary components, it can then get rolling! The hub of the wheel is comprised of four bases, which underpin mentoring relationships.

Within these four bases, Lewis explains that you could expect to see roles emerging. A mentor will need to exhibit all these characteristics in order to be effective.

The Mentoring Wheel

The organization base

What is the position and experience of the mentor in the school? The mentor will need relevant experience and knowledge as well as being in a position of influence. Will the culture of your school support and enable mentoring or are you always going to be battling, for example, against lack of time and the cover system?

  • Advocate or opportunity provider – this is a teacher who can create opportunities for people to learn or have new experiences. For example, they may hold the INSET budget and can therefore authorize funding for a particular learning experience or they may be able to delegate (and subsequently offer support for) a new task such as planning a scheme of work or organizing a parents evening.
  • Interpreter – the mentor needs to have a sound understanding of how the school operates, in order to offer a wider perspective on issues raised in the mentoring process.

The context base

Is there a purpose to the mentoring? The mentor may have a clearly defined relationship with a novice teacher or NQT, who will be working towards pre-scribed standards. Other mentoring relationships evolve from a friendship and are more informal.

  • Process Consultant – the mentor needs to keep in mind the wider objectives of the mentoring relationship. The mentoring relationship may be linked directly to performance threshold, for example, or achieving the Qualified Teacher Status.

The development base

The implicit role of a mentor in school is to help a colleague to develop professionally. Mentors therefore need to have some understanding of how teachers learn in the school environment and how they as a mentor can subsequently facilitate learning.

  • Learning Consultant – in this instance, the mentor may need to be able to recommend further INSET opportunities or advise on other matters associated with learning.
  • Coach – coaching has a more immediate performance-based focus than long-term mentoring. The mentor also needs to take on the role of coach as they pass on their knowledge to help other teachers to develop their skills.

The interpersonal base

Positive relationships based on mutual respect and trust are the key to successful mentoring.

  • Counsellor – the mentor needs to be caring as well as providing guidance. Communication skills are all important, along with empathy.

To conclude, mentoring is a natural process, but in order for mentoring to work well in the school environment, it is important to establish a framework of best practice. A model such as this can help a school to check their understanding of mentoring and define a rationale that will help make mentoring a successful element of CPD. In addition to the relationship between the mentor and the mentee, the influence of the organization and the purpose of mentoring are also strong considerations. TEX


Mentoring Manager, Gareth Lewis ISBN 027364484X

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