- Posted by Josh Cronin
- On 8th January 2012
Every day teachers witness the difference that supportive parenting makes to a child’s education. A parental unit with mom and dad at home nurturing their development and investing time in their upbringing is clearly the preferred model. However, society very rarely follows preferred models and many teachers are faced with the challenge of single parent families and parents who have difficulty leading their own lives in a considerate and responsible manner.
If parents do not invest time in their children and teach them important life skills and encourage them to take responsibility for their future, is it important that somebody else steps into this role on their behalf?
My strong belief is that this lack of vital mentoring during childhood is responsible for many of the social challenges previously discussed. Regardless of the moral issue of whether parents should be made more accountable for the actions of their offspring, we are all left to pay the heavy price when children, through no fault of their own, are left to find their way in the world with little or no guidance from a responsible adult.
It would be unfair to dump this responsibility upon teachers who have already become the focal point for additional duties and reporting functions in recent decades. Increasing financial constraints are making the roles of teaching assistants and learning mentors more vulnerable at a time when their presence has never been so vital.
So, what is the solution?
One possible way of fulfilling this role, whilst also covering a number of other important functions, would be to deploy a Health Mentor.
Project HE:RO was established to address the rising inactivity and obesity epidemic sweeping the developed world. However, the initiative has evolved and built upon the positive role model aspect of the scheme to support schools to raise educational standards by engaging with hard to reach pupils.
Health Mentors can work in the classroom as teaching assistants and also lead PE lessons and extracurricular activities, bringing their expertise to a specialised aspect of the school curriculum. They also encourage positive play during lunchtimes to make sure that all pupils return to the afternoon session, ready to learn from the very first minute.
Health Mentors make an immediate impact in attendance, behaviour and attainment due to the unique relationships they develop with pupils. They are held in as high regard as a teacher but have specific targets to motivate, engage and listen to all pupils, especially those who need that extra mentoring support.
The role has recently progressed further so that Health Mentors have been trained to conduct short, one to one mentoring sessions that focus on the attitude, health and/or attainment of selected pupils. This new work stand was developed alongside forward thinking and innovative headteachers who were already using Health Mentors in similar roles to provide targeted and impactful support.
Such is the desire to introduce this aspect to their host schools that some Health Mentors are reducing their allocated lunch break to create the time needed to spend 5 to 10 minutes within pupils on a regular basis. This small but significant investment of time into the most vulnerable pupils will demonstrate that there are people who care about their future and will directly challenge them to take responsibility for their own hopes, dreams and ambitions.