Mentoring programme for young people goes virtual

Tuesday 30 Jun 2020

AQA Unlocking Potential, a life changing mentoring programme aimed at young people aged between 11 and 19, has continued to be delivered, in spite of school closures, thanks to virtual technology.

The programme, a partnership between AQA and the Dame Kelly Holmes trust, aims to help young people who have overcome personal challenges in their life, develop skills, confidence, motivation and self-belief.

Before schools closed in March, athlete mentors from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust were attending 20 schools across England to deliver sessions with groups of young people that had been selected back in December 2019.

As the programme normally involves athletes visiting the students in school all sessions went on hold straight away, but thanks to the huge amount of work behind the scenes from teachers, athletes and staff involved, a new process to deliver the programme virtually was quickly devised and implemented in 11 schools.

For most schools, this involved moving to group sessions via Zoom with both the athlete mentor and the teacher involved on the call.

Jenny Wallwork, athlete mentor and former GB Badminton star, was delivering sessions to Woodkirk Academy in Wakefield. She said:

“The sessions have gone really well, the group were great. We had a really good catch up and focused on the five ways to wellbeing and kicked off planning new ideas for their social action project.”

Feedback from the students was also really positive with one saying:

“During lockdown, psychological barriers have escalated, deteriorated and toughened, so having the opportunity to make contact with Jenny, has made these lockdown challenges much more manageable and accessible.”

Over the last few weeks, some of the groups have been delivering virtual social action projects in place of the community based ones they had originally planned and next week they will to attend an online celebration event with Col. Dame Kelly Holmes.

Col. Dame Kelly Holmes MBE (Mil) said:

“I am really pleased that the AQA Unlocking Potential programme has managed to continue for so many students during the lockdown period. The current situation has been tough for everyone, but I know that the support offered by our brilliant athlete mentors, will have been a great help to the students over this difficult time.

“The end of programme celebration has always been a highlight of the year for everyone and I am looking forward to catching up with the students from this year’s programme, to hear the exciting stories of success, at the virtual celebration event.”

Mark Bedlow, AQA’s interim Chief Executive, added:

“I’m really pleased these young people were still able to access the AQA Unlocking Potential programme at what must be a very difficult time for them.

“At AQA we’re very aware of the problems young people have encountered with regards to accessing education in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and the greater potential for students from more disadvantaged backgrounds to miss out on valuable teacher engagement and the benefits a classroom environment.

“We want to do whatever we can to support all students and young people at this challenging time and being able to continue to deliver the AQA Unlocking Potential programme is fantastic news.”

You can follow all the latest from the programme on Twitter via the hashtag #AQAUnlockingPotential.