Kingsbury Green Academy students set sights high, thanks to expert mentoring programme.

Careers in motorbike racing, computer games and sport are all in the sights of some Kingsbury Green Academy students who recently followed a mentoring programme.

A selection of Year 9 Kingsbury Green Academy students have been learning important skills for the world of work, despite the pandemic, thanks to mentors at office furniture specialist Herman Miller.

Kingsbury Green Academy’s career leader, Catherine Young, said: “This is our third year running the programme with Herman Miller and previous years’ results have shown an increase in students’ confidence, aspirations and academic motivation.

“The WEM programme provides such a worthwhile experience for so many of our students and we were delighted to see students gaining confidence to network and aspire high in this virtual world. Huge praise is due to the fantastic mentors who pulled the content together, made it interesting virtually and put time and effort into making the sessions engaging and thought-provoking for our students.”

Over six sessions, 23 students took part in online group mentoring sessions with business partner Herman Miller, whose international office is in Melksham. Kingsbury Green Academy, which is part of the Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust, uses a framework developed by Skillsbuilder to develop skills such as teamwork, problem solving, listening and speaking, which will be important when they move through to higher education or employment.

In a post-mentoring survey, the students reported a significant improvement in confidence in rising to some of the challenges associated with the workplace. All students said they felt more confidence in themselves and their abilities, and that they were more able to take part in discussions. They also said they understood far more about career pathways and the skills required for jobs, and almost all said their enjoyment of school increased following the mentoring sessions.

More than two thirds said that they had more ideas, or a better plan, for what to do following their GCSEs in two years’ time. New career aspirations included producing games for a gaming company, opening a hairdressing salon after serving an apprenticeship, going to university abroad to study sport and becoming a photographer. One student said they were now going to “pursue my dream of being a motorbike racer”.

One student, Jai, said he found the programme very informative.

“It helped me develop skills like speaking, what we can do when we’re older and that we should feel proud of ourselves for getting awards and just being good in class. I thought the mentors were very nice and informative and trying their best to help us develop new skills – when Covid is over it would be a great opportunity to meet them.”

Another student’s parent said her son’s initial nervousness soon vanished.

“When he chose to do it he was really nervous, especially as it was with older people as he was worried he’d be embarrassed. A couple of weeks in he said he was starting to enjoy it and was getting knowledge about all the things he could do and how to get there. He got on with everyone and, in his words, he said ‘it’s great to see into my future’.”

The mentoring scheme is part of the West of England Mentoring (WEM) programme, a flagship secondary school programme set up by educational charity Ablaze, and is run through Kingsbury Green Academy’s WIN programme.

WIN is the Wessex Inspiration Network, and aims to increase social mobility by raising awareness of higher education opportunities and progression pathways for young people.

Ceri Bowers, the WEM project manager at Ablaze, said:

“Much praise must be given to Catherine Young and her fantastic drive and organisation, with huge thanks to the Herman Miller volunteer mentor team. It was fantastic to see how much support these students are getting in such a crucial time of their lives.”