Learning mentors provide additional support to students who are unable to actively participate in classroom activities, or reach their academic potential in a traditional classroom setting, because of learning difficulties, social problems or cultural barriers.
These guys are employed by primary and secondary schools, schools for children with special education needs, further education colleges, pupil referral units (PRUs) and community education centres. Learning mentors collaborate with other professionals in these learning environments, such as teachers, educational psychologists and education administrators, in order to help each and every student get the same opportunities.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be working with pupils, either individually or in small groups. This will involve listening to their problems, providing them with encouragement, stimulating their interest in learning, building their confidence and generally helping them to improve their attendance, behaviour and academic performance.
Part of your role will also consist of liaising with teachers, parents, guardians and community representatives to discuss the most prevalent issues affecting certain pupils, and offering advice on how they too can help the troubled students in question.
Furthermore, you’ll be responsible for organising and managing extramural activities (i.e. those which take place outside of academic institutions), events and initiatives which will be designed to inspire, motivate and encourage students to interact with their peers, work together and achieve success in an unofficial learning environment.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for learning mentors in the early stages of their careers range between £15,000 and £25,000, while experienced personnel can expect to earn between £25,000 and £50,000 a year.
On average, learning mentors work around 35-40 hours a week. The job is mainly school or office-based with little or no travel required.
Working late and/or on weekends is usually uncommon. However, some learning mentors do wish to visit students and their families in a non-school environment to build friendly and encouraging relationships.
You don’t necessarily need a degree to break into this line of work, though it’s important to consider that the competition for jobs in this area means that getting a strong degree in any discipline will be advantageous.
Candidates with degrees in education, psychology, social care, youth work or sociology will have an even better chance of securing a job.
Given that you’ll be working directly with children, you’ll also need to undergo a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service, previously known as CRB, or Criminal Records Bureau) check before you can start working.
Training & progression
A comprehensive training and development programme for new learning mentors is offered by the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC). Furthermore, learning mentors can work part-time towards professional qualifications, such as foundation degrees and NVQs in learning development and support services.
Opportunities for career progression usually involve taking a step back from hands-on support work and moving into roles with more administrative and managerial responsibilities. Alternatively, you could move laterally into related fields such as community and social work, youth work or charity work.