A social enterprise scheme connecting employers and local schools across Leeds is entering its third year after receiving positive feedback and reaching thousands of students.
The Make the Grade initiative, led by social enterprise Ahead Partnership, last year reached 3,000 primary and secondary pupils in the city, helping them to forge links with more than 100 businesses.
It provides each school with a programme of employability and skills development activities and the scheme has seen more than 700 volunteers from partner businesses taking part.
Among the partnerships, business advisory firm Grant Thornton, communications agency Logistik and electronics company Premier Farnell, have been working to mentor an all-female year 9 group at Swallow Hill Community College.
The aim has been to improve grades but also bring about a more fundamental change in their attitude to learning by increasing confidence and motivation. As well as the mentoring sessions, the businesses have held careers events, run maths workshops, and hosted visits to their offices.
Speaking about the student she was mentoring, Sandra O’Neill, a volunteer from Grant Thornton, said: “She had to go through an interview process to receive the mentoring and it was clear to me that she was keen to gain experience and get herself ahead of the game. She worked hard and applied herself and the feedback from everyone here was very positive.”
Bryan Pearce, assistant principal at Swallow Hill, added: “We are particularly aware of the need to engage and inspire our female students. Too often there is a lack of confidence and self-belief – the companies which have been working with our year 9 girls mentoring group have done a great job of delivering a convincing message about the opportunities available.”
Across the city, eight secondary schools and 19 primary schools have been involved in the programme. Other partners include Leeds Community NHS Trust, Asda, Balfour Beatty, The Co-operative, and DWF. For details, visit www.aheadpartnership.org.uk/make-the-grade.aspx CAPTION: Make the Grade: Members of the all-female mentoring group from Swallow Hill College