Investigation into the role and impact of learning mentors in primary schools in England

  • Benny Kuruvilla

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The Labour Government which came to power in 1997 introduced the Excellence in Cities initiative in 1999 in order to address what were perceived to be low standards and falling attainment levels experienced by inner city schools in England. The learning mentor programme, which was part of this initiative, created a new group of educational professionals who were deployed in secondary schools with the mandate to remove barriers to learning in order to enable disaffected children to participate more fully in their learning. It was expected that this would ultimately improve standards and raise attainment levels. Initial positive outcomes prompted the widening of the programme to include schools outside the cities and later on to involve primary schools. The phenomenological case study which is the focus of this thesis analysed data collected using semi-structured interviews with learning mentors, mentees, parents of the mentees and teachers, which were guided by grounded theory and document analysis, to seek a clear definition of the role of the learning mentors within the primary school. The study based on ecological systems theory used thematic analysis to identify main themes within the data which indicated certain commonalities within the responses of the research participants. 1 he analysis also indicated that these common themes were not present within the existing literature which suggested a certain difference between the role of the learning mentors as generally presented and the perception of the service providers and service users.

    I he results of the research indicated that service users including mentees, parents and teachers as well as service providers i.e. primary school learning mentors perceived that their most important role is to be an available, approachable and non-judgemental listeners. Such a role allowed those pupils who are faced with barriers to learning, which are different from learning difficulties or special needs to seek appropriate help without the trauma of being labelled. The research also indicated that the ability of the learning mentors to provide appropriate support during various stages such as identifying the barriers, developing appropriate strategies and implementing those strategies are more positively welcomed compared to other support professionals such as counsellors. The findings also indicated that although not measurable in quantitative terms, mentoring support has a positive impact on the social and academic outcomes of the mentees, as it provided them with an opportunity to realise their potential. However, the results also indicated that due to various reasons including the absence of an accepted universal definition of the role, appropriate structure and regulations which govern their training, recruitment and career progression, the learning mentor role has been subjected to much misperception with the result that potential service users could feel reluctant to seek the learning mentors' help as well as the learning mentors themselves being deployed for tasks not identified as part of mentoring.

    The study provides an understanding of the role and impact of the primary school learning mentor based on empirical data which are closely associated with the lived experiences of the participants. This knowledge is valuable in facilitating the most appropriate deployment of the learning mentors by service providers as well as encouraging wider use of this support mechanism by providing service users with the accurate description of the role of these professionals. Further, research outcomes highlight the need for better training, putting in place appropriate recruitment criteria for the learning mentors and providing opportunities for career progression.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPaul Bracey (Supervisor) & Peter Swatton (Supervisor)

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