Learning mentors provide a complementary service to teachers and other staff, addressing the needs of learners who require help in overcoming barriers to learning in order to achieve their full potential.
They work with a range of learners, but give priority to those who need the most help, especially those experiencing multiple disadvantages.
The variety of issues covered is vast, ranging from punctuality, absence, challenging behaviour and abuse to working with able and gifted learners who are experiencing difficulties.
Learning mentors are predominantly education based (in primary, secondary and further education settings) but have a wider remit including families and the wider community. They work with children or young adults on a one-to-one basis or in small or large groups.
Sometimes learning mentors work in offender learning and will also work with adult learners in the education system.
Learning mentors perform a wide-ranging role. Duties vary depending on the nature of the job, for example the level of expertise required and complexity of the work expected.
Some posts require a degree and experience of working with vulnerable and challenging young people and will expect post holders to manage their own case load and plan, deliver and measure interventions to support the young people they work with.
Others will require GCSEs in English and maths and will expect mentors to work in a supporting role.
Tasks often include:
- liaising with staff to identify learners who would benefit from mentoring;
- helping learners who are underperforming in their subjects, either on a one-to-one basis outside the classroom or within lessons;
- implementing strategies and supporting learners in self-esteem and confidence-building activities;
- listening to and helping learners resolve a range of issues that are creating barriers to learning;
- drawing up agreed action plans with learners, outlining the aims of the mentoring, and monitoring their progress;
- monitoring attendance and punctuality of learners;
- visiting parents at home to discuss issues and problems, and running group sessions and workshops for parents at school;
- advising parents on behaviour strategies and parenting skills;
- networking with other learning mentors and teachers and relevant external agencies;
- liaising with relevant professionals and individuals, e.g. educational psychologists, the police and social services;
- setting up breakfast clubs and after-school clubs as well as running extracurricular activities, such as homework clubs, reading clubs, sports, music and discos, during lunchtimes or as out-of-school activities;
- organising drop-in 'offload' sessions for learners, where they can talk about a particular issue;
- providing group activities such as anger management classes;
- maintaining accurate records and preparing written reports and evaluations;
- helping to secure funding to support learners' additional educational needs;
- managing your own professional development through undertaking relevant training and sharing best practice with other learning mentors;
- helping with transition activities for learners moving to secondary schools or on to further education.
- The range of typical starting salaries is around £15,000 to £18,000.
- With some experience, salaries can range from £20,000 to £25,000. Learning mentors with management responsibilities can earn up to £32,000.
Salary depends on the nature of the role and the recognition by the employer of the professionalism required to do the job: some equate expertise and salary to that of a new teacher or social worker; others pay a support-role salary.
Those who work part time or work term-time only will receive pro-rata payment (i.e. a portion of full-time rates).
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are usually 35 to 40 hours, Monday to Friday during term time. Some evening and occasional weekend work is necessary on, for example, extra-curricular activities or to visit parents. In addition, preparation and administrative work is often done in the evening due to the time pressures of seeing clients during the day.
Part-time work and job sharing opportunities are available in some instances.
What to expect
- Jobs are available throughout the country.
- Dress should usually be smart but practical.
- The job may be stressful due to the nature of the problems dealt with, but does not generally disrupt social or home life or require relocation.
- Staff are mainly based with an educational provider such as a school or college and only travel within the catchment area to see parents or occasionally to other schools/settings to attend meetings.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates and those with a HND, a degree/HND in a national curriculum subject may be helpful. A degree covering some of the issues involved in learning mentoring is also useful.
In particular, the following subjects may improve your chances:
- social work;
- early childhood years;
- social science.
Entry without a degree/HND is possible, although many entrants have a degree and some have training in a related field such as:
- psychology and health;
- youth, community or social work.
A good standard of general education is usually required, particularly in English and maths.
A postgraduate degree is not necessary for entry, but some learning mentors have professional qualifications.
You will need to obtain police clearance via a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if you are working with young people.
You will need to show:
- excellent communication and listening skills;
- the ability to analyse problems and devise solutions;
- assertiveness in dealing with pupils and fellow professionals;
- determination to see problems and solutions through to the end;
- the ability to empathise;
- a non-judgemental approach;
- organisational and time management skills;
- the ability to relate to young people and adults;
- the capacity to motivate and act as a role model;
- negotiation skills;
- flexible and adaptable and able to work well under pressure;
- report writing skills and the ability to maintain accurate records;
- a commitment to equality and diversity;
- an understanding of confidentiality and the handling of sensitive information;
- a commitment to safeguarding.
Experience of working with young people is essential (either paid or voluntary) and it is extremely useful to have some experience of mentoring, either as a mentor or mentee. Experience of working in an education setting is also valuable. Examples include youth work, working with a holiday scheme or in a school.
Competition for jobs can be fierce but your chances of entry can be greatly enhanced by relevant work experience. Any voluntary work that involves working with young people and helping them to solve problems or look at issues that are affecting them is helpful.
Some vacancies specifically ask for graduates with training in the field of education, psychology, health or social work.
Some universities run mentoring schemes, which are an opportunity to gain experience. Local authorities may also run volunteer learning mentor schemes; learning mentors are generally open to offers of volunteer help. In order to gain relevant experience (working with children), volunteers will need to obtain DBS clearance.
Experience of mentoring in a range of roles is useful, for example supporting people with disabilities or peer-to-peer mentoring. For information on joining a volunteer mentoring scheme see the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation.
Learning mentors generally work as individuals or as part of a team in primary and secondary schools, academies and colleges.
Learning mentors work in other areas, such as special schools, further education colleges and pupil referral units.
They are usually employed directly by schools and colleges.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Local Government Jobs
- Guardian Jobs
- Individual school websites.
- Weekly, bi-weekly or monthly local council vacancy bulletins.
- Local council websites.
Training is usually on the job. In the first year of employment, most learning mentors will build up a portfolio detailing their activities and attend several days of training. They will learn from colleagues and senior staff.
Many newly appointed learning mentors will undertake an induction programme, which aims to ensure all support staff are able to carry out their responsibilities competently and with confidence. It should allow them to supply dependable support to learners while upholding school policies.
Some employers choose to deliver their induction programme via a series of modules consisting of eleven core modules and four optional modules. The modules can be adapted to cover local needs and delivery methods. These materials have been designed to support qualifications in the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).
Qualifications include the Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools. For more information see the Department for Education - Support Staff Essential Training.
With experience, it is possible to work towards qualifications such as the Level 5 Diploma for the Learning Development and Support Services Workforce, aimed at learning mentors and education welfare officers.
Internal and external training may be available in particular areas relevant to the needs of the school, for example:
- addressing cross-cultural issues;
- how to work on anger management with learners;
- supporting learners with special educational needs;
- working with parents;
- integrating your role in the school;
Learning mentors are usually responsible for their own career development and need to seek out in-house and external opportunities relevant to their role.
It is possible to begin as an assistant learning mentor or learning mentor and then progress, through experience, to the role of lead learning mentor or learning mentor coordinator, coordinating the work of a group of learning mentors in a cluster of schools.
With experience it is possible to specialise in working with particular client groups, for example excluded students.
Learning mentors may also undertake further training and qualifications to move across into other related professions such as:
- careers and advice work;
- social and probation work;
- youth work, youth offending teams and education welfare;
- speech and language therapy;
- special or alternative education;
- the voluntary sector and charities.