Earlier today, as part of a wide-ranging speech outlining his plans to attack the deep-seated causes of poverty, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a scheme to create a new generation of high-flying mentors to help struggling British teenagers fulfil their potential and improve their life chances. Under the terms of the scheme, Christine Hodgson, Chairman of Capgemini UK and The Careers & Enterprise Company has agreed to lead a major campaign to encourage business people and professionals to volunteer as mentors.
Despite the number of young people not in education, training or employment (NEET) falling since 2010, and with numbers now at their lowest since records began, there are still tens of thousands of teenagers who are at risk of falling through the cracks.
In addition, many bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds are failing to fulfil their potential: figures show that pupils who score highly in primary school often struggle to continue that success into secondary school.
Around 25,000 pupils about to begin GCSEs risk under-achieving or dropping out: many of these would benefit from a mentor and the campaign will aim to ensure that they are not denied that support because no suitable mentors are available.
The national mentoring campaign will see schools and businesses encouraged to work together to give these young people the best possible chance to succeed in later life. The campaign is part of a broader strategy aimed at combatting poverty and improving the life chances of the worst off that was outlined by the Prime Minister today.
In his speech, which was delivered in north London, the Prime Minister said: "Many people can look back at their younger selves and point to someone - perhaps a parent or teacher, a sports coach, or their first boss - and say 'that's the person who found my passion. They're the ones who made the difference.
"But if you haven't ever had someone in your life who really believes in you - who sees your potential and helps bring it to the fore - the sands of time can drain away, and your talents can remain hidden.
Campaign to build a new generation of mentors
"So I can announce that we are going to launch a new national campaign, led by Christine Hodgson, Chair of Capgemini UK and the Careers & Enterprise Company, and it will work with business, charities and the public sector to build a new generation of high-quality mentors.
"We'll direct £70m towards careers in this Parliament, primarily to the Careers and Enterprise Company who will lead this major new effort to recruit mentors for young teenagers with a focus on the 25,000 about to start their GCSEs who we know are underachieving or at risk of dropping out."
Christine said: "I am pleased that The Careers & Enterprise Company has been asked to spearhead this campaign. In our engagement with businesses, we work with many people wanting to volunteer and help support the next generation.
"We hope that this campaign will highlight even more opportunities for people to get involved in a meaningful way to help young people who are in danger of becoming disengaged."
The Careers & Enterprise Company to lead campaign
The new campaign will be led through The Careers & Enterprise Company, which was set up to give young people better access to access to high quality careers education, advice and guidance through more effective employer engagement with schools .
The campaign will:
- Encourage mentors to come forward from businesses and public and charitable sectors, including the civil service and Local Government Association
- Help potential volunteers to identify mentoring organisations operating in their local area through more effective work with schools; and -Proactively target schools who need help to offer mentors.
Mentoring has been shown to help improve children's attainment and self-esteem. The campaign will build on existing provision delivered through a wide number of organisations including the Prince's Trust, Mosaic and the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation.
The announcement covered several areas of social reform, including measures to eliminate sink estates and improvements to mental health services. It has already received plenty of coverage, with City AM and the Guardian Politics Live Blog both picking up on it.