Last Updated: Thursday, June 09, 2022

MCR Pathways

What is this?

MCR Pathways continued mentoring virtually for care-experienced and disadvantaged young people, which was crucial to ensuring young people were not cut from life-changing support.

Who is this for?

For all with an interest in Scottish education. 

What we did:

MCR Pathways mentoring charity provides life-changing support for care-experienced and disadvantaged young people. Operating in schools across Scotland, mentors are matched with a pupil they meet weekly, supporting them to get the best from their education.

For many young people, chaotic home lives made them more vulnerable to the impact of lockdown. When learning went online, young people felt locked out, their safe haven lost. To maintain continuity, MCR quickly and safely moved mentoring 'virtual'.

By July, nearly 2,000 young people were participating, engaging with school staff and mentors through video, audio and live chat messaging. This flexible platform continues to enable both pupil and mentor vital options for contact, facilitated by MCR to ensure safeguarding.

Many staff and young people also volunteered in the local community and found creative ways to engage and connect, most importantly keep spirits as high as possible.

MCR ran a lockdown survey to capture the experiences of our most disadvantaged. More than 1,000 young people took part and shared the lockdown impact had on their mental wellbeing, the barriers they faced to home learning and more. Their bravery and resilience shone through and their feedback helped form school recovery plans.

Who we involved:

MCR only works in partnership with each school and Local Authority. The integrated approach with school staff was highly effective in reaching and supporting our most disadvantaged young people. Online contact was facilitated by the school-based MCR Pathways Coordinator to ensure safeguarding and also signposted other community services and networks.

The difference it made:

ScotCen's 2020 three year study on MCR earlier this year found that mentoring profoundly impacts care-experienced pupil's education outcomes. Continuing mentoring virtually was crucial to ensuring young people were not cut from this life-changing support. While our fantastic schools and teaching staff could focus on educating and learning, mentors were able to give the vital, personalised 1:1 support that helps care-experienced pupils to fully engage. In the MCR Lockdown Survey Report, 82.2% of pupils told us the support of their mentor would help them upon their return to school.

"I think everyone should have mentors as I know without mine lockdown would have been a lot more of a struggle. I think people just need someone to talk to, be able to share their circumstances and have a laugh. My mentor has done amazing at assigning me activities and resources to keep me occupied. They have pushed me to go on more walks, which I have enjoyed, and they have chatted to me a lot about university and my worries". Pupil in Aberdeen.

Since in-person learning resumed, the perseverance of our Coordinators and mentors has prevented many from disengaging, with more than 2,500 young people supported weekly.

What we will do differently in the future:

Lockdown has shown how critical school is to our young people, both for their education and as safe havens, community hubs and places where aspirations are built. Though pupils have returned to school, in many circumstances relationships continue virtually as physical meetings remain a challenge. This flexibility allows us to effectively deliver our platform with minimal disruption, supporting schools and pupils even if further or local lockdowns are announced.

One-to-one, in-person mentoring, embedded in the school week is at the heart of our programme. When normality is restored, this model will always be our foundation to ensure relationships have the best chance to flourish. However, what has been both surprising and reassuring is the adaptability of our young people and their mentors. Online contact has also given us an avenue for reaching more disengaged pupils, who have more complex attendance challenges, and we are in the process of exploring the opportunities that this may provide.

Additionally, we have moved our mentor onboarding process online, allowing for new efficiencies. These virtual options have been adopted throughout the programme and are proving to be useful tools we will continue to utilise to support young people, especially those who are harder to reach.