School-based mentoring programme continues to expand into new regions across Scotland.
The mentoring charity MCR Pathways handed the reigns over to its young people to tell their stories at its first national conference at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall on Thursday afternoon.
They shared how the transformational MCR mentoring model works and now with support from the Deputy First Minister it will accelerate its national expansion.
Through mentoring MCR Pathways helps disadvantaged young people in or on the edges of the care system to realise their full potential and is currently supporting more than 1,000 young people each week. Its first National Conference held on Thursday, 19 April was hosted by many of those young people, who led attendees through a series of presentations, interviews and workshops, all designed to consider the challenges facing today's youth from their perspective. Among a panel responding to questions from the young people was Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training and Annemarie O'Donnell, CEO of Glasgow City Council.
MCR Pathways' Young Glasgow Talent programme operates in all 30 council secondary schools and recently launched in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire. The charity is also working on a national plan, which will see its reach extend to other Scottish local authorities this year.
Speaking ahead of the National Conference, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, said:
"I welcome the improved outcomes for care experienced children and young people that the MCR mentoring model has achieved in Glasgow and we are supportive of plans to expand the programme across Scotland.
"The Government is committed to improving educational outcomes for all our children and young people, and school-based mentoring schemes, such as the MCR Pathways programme, can clearly play a significant role in helping us to achieve that aim.
"The Scottish Attainment Challenge funding can, and already is, supporting the development of mentoring programmes in school and the Government can match fund any Challenge Authority who wishes to take forward the MCR programme as part of their Attainment Challenge plan.
"Additionally, schools are empowered to decide how they use their Pupil Equity Funding to support young people living in poverty and we know that a number of schools have chosen to use some of their PEF allocation to provide mentoring for young people in school."
Iain MacRitchie, founder of MCR Pathways, said: "Today's announcement from the Deputy First Minister is one we warmly welcome. With support from the Scottish Government and local authorities we can make a world of difference to help these fantastic young people realise their full potential.
"We are proud that we now help more than 1,000 young people each week. However, we need to support another 1,000 in Glasgow alone. The experience of mentoring is as life changing for mentors as it is for mentees - so our message to anyone reading this is to join the MCR movement today and help transform the education outcomes, career opportunities and life chances of Scotland's most disadvantaged young people.
"In the Year of Young People, it's more important now than ever that we ensure disadvantaged young people are defined by their potential and talent and never their circumstances. Some of us have rosy memories of our time at school but for others high school represents some of our darkest times with uncertainty, feeling powerless and without anyone to rely on yet being asked to make adult decisions.
"For these young people, relationships and role models matter. It's simple, by devoting 50 minutes a week to listen, build a trusting relationship and help a young person to find their talent, people can make a life-changing difference. All people have to do is give an hour and they can change a life."
Annemarie O'Donnell, Chief Executive, Glasgow City Council said: "We are overwhelmed by the impact the mentoring programme is having in our schools and more importantly on the outcomes of some of Glasgow's most vulnerable young people.
"In the last 10 years we are proud to have been partners with MCR Pathways and together we have developed, nurtured and embedded the mentoring principles into all 30 secondary schools - almost two years ahead of schedule.
"Over a year ago I made a public commitment towards 10% of council employees being involved in - as either mentors or part of the successful talent taster programme - I'm delighted to say that we are progressing steadily towards this ambitious target. I know that we will deliver - just as Glasgow's young people are as part of this wonderful initiative."
Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education added: "The figures speak for themselves - more of our care experienced young people than ever before are staying on in school, achieving in national exams and going on to positive destinations.
"With the help of mentors, care experienced young people are now more likely to go on to college, university, training or employment - with significant increases over the last few years and up from 49% in 2014 to 81%.
"Working together in partnership with MCR Pathways has helped us reach this ambition.
"I want each young person in the city to be given every opportunity possible to fulfil their ambitions - regardless of circumstances - and that's what we will continue to strive for."
Find out more about the MCR Pathways programme and the conference.