World-class sports stars to mentor young people in 20 schools across the UK

Monday 9 Mar 2015

This week sees the launch of this year's AQA Unlocking Potential, a unique mentoring programme for young people aged 14 to 19 that gives them eight months of dedicated support and one-to-one mentoring from high-achieving athletes.

This year 20 schools from right across England have been selected and 41 young people will benefit from the programme, launching today, 9th March.  The team of inspirational athlete mentors include Olympic gymnast and "Tumble" star Craig Heap, and Paralympians Graham Edmunds and Anna Turney.

Working closely with schools, the AQA Unlocking Potential programme aims to bring out the best in young people so that they can achieve their goals, including improving their confidence, teamwork and communication skills.

70% of  young people who completed last year's programme reported  that  AQA Unlocking Potential had helped them with their school work, and 64% reported  that  their  grades  had  improved  since  the  start  of  the programme.

Andrew Hall, Chief Executive of AQA, said: "We are very much looking forward to seeing how this year's students grow in confidence and work together with their mentors to plan and deliver community projects – and our enthusiastic AQA volunteers are ready to lend a hand. I hope this will be an exciting time for the young people and their schools.  They're at the beginning of a valuable and interesting journey, and we know from previous years that for some it will prove a positive turning point in their lives."

Double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, said: "AQA Unlocking Potential is not aimed at developing the potential of future sports stars, but at young people who need an inspirational helping hand. The athlete mentors know what it takes to overcome adversity and have the will to succeed not only in sport, but in life too. I'm really excited that this fantastic programme is now in its fourth year. Wishing all the young people a fantastic launch week, and I look forward to meeting them as the programme progresses!"

16-year-old Ross from London took part in last year's AQA Unlocking Potential. Ross had not had an easy start in life, having grown up in care following the death of his father. Not knowing how to cope, he would often get angry at school and was taking less of an interest in lessons. After finishing the programme Ross said: "I feel like I'm back on track now. Working on this project has given me opportunities I would never have had otherwise." Ross is now at college studying plastering.

Vladimir Netty, Ross' teacher, said: "I think there should be more things like this, having seen what an impact it's made on Ross. It's been a fantastic thing for him to be part of."