Following 12 weeks of online mentoring, and the successful completion of the GROW Programme, the opportunity for Graduate Mentor, Mariya Masood, to meet with her mentee was an amazing opportunity. Featured in Sky News, Trevor Phillips on Sunday, on 20th June 2021, headteacher Paul Crook at Penistone Grammar School, Barnsley, acknowledges the benefits of the programme to support pupils’ mental health arising from the struggles of lockdown. Programme director, Susan O’Brien talks about the need for a nuanced mentoring programme that supports pupils to reconnect with school and their learning, that sits alongside, and complements, the tutoring offered by the government’s National Tutoring Programme. The commitment by the Regional Mayor’s Office is underlined by Dan Jarvis to support levelling-up regionally.

Pupil Alison Andrijauskaite talks about the struggles of lockdown: ‘… just staying at home, and not being able to see anyone, especially teachers, it was so much more difficult to concentrate at home because there are so many more distractions …‘. Her graduate mentor, Mariya Masood provided one-to-one coaching over six weeks, all online. She says: ‘ … we covered a variety of activiites over 12 workbooks – we spoke about anything at all to do with skills, future development, future planning, careers, exam and startegic learning, calming strategies, that kind of thing …‘. According to Sue O’Brien, the GROW Programme Director, what has been really crucial to the succes of the GROW Programme is that it has been co-designed with local schools: ‘You know, we didn’t say this is what you need to do. They said to us, you know actually we’ve got subject specialists, so that’s OK, what we need is this more nuanced mentoring programme‘. The need to invest in young people, and to address the gap caused by the pandemic is echoed by Regional Mayor, Dan Jarvis, who has supplemented the local government’s contribution to the GROW programme from his own office funds: ‘It is really important that the governemnt really goes much further to provide much greater levels of investment, so those kids who have been disdadvantaged as a result of lockdown, get every opportunity to catch up‘.