The project is a European undertaking, developed in Scotland, Romania, Czech Republic, Finland and Spain. The project seeks to address engagement with adult learners from our most socially and economically deprived communities and to aid their progression in society, with the help of education and mentors.
The framework for the project will have two clear strategic outcomes:
- To form a more socially inclusive society during difficult economic conditions, by working with adults from our most deprived areas
- To help our learners progress and obtain the qualifications society needs them to have, by providing robust guidance frameworks
These are the four main activities of the project:
- Each partner identifies and establishes an adult peer-mentoring network for learners and communities of learners from areas of multiple deprivations
- Produces materials and resources to support the mentors involved
- Produces materials and resources for adult learning organisations, to support volunteer mentors working with adult learners
- Develops a European peer mentoring network through the partnership work of the project and the mobilities, in order to support partner/country networks
SWAPWest, Scottish Wider Access Programme West, from the UK is the lead partner of the project. Other partners include FORMARE STUDIA from Romania, POE EDUCO, spol. s r.o. from the Czech Republic, the University of Malmö from Sweden and the Foundation for Social Development (FDS) from Spain. Glasgow Caledonian University from the UK is an associate partner.
The original idea was to find what kind of guidance was needed. We have different organisations in Scotland. Mentors are role models; they take care of people that come from poor backgrounds with multiple deprivations – people that governments try to get back to learning or back to employment.
Our objective is to develop material in order to train mentors for adults that have difficulties. Their role is to encourage people to engage in adult education. Mentors have to find a common interest with their learner; they can go to museums, look at educational institutions, bring him/her to a college/university, attend sport events, go for a walk, etc. There is a lot of talking involved, to see what the specific difficulties of the learner might be. Ideally, they mentor only one person at a time.
To find the learner that they will mentor, we ask for volunteers from the local community – we have links with educational organisations so we will find a lot of them. They are already interested in learning but they need some additional encouragement.
Our mentors decide to participate in the project because it encourages their self-confidence and self-esteem. Also, it is very good for their CV as they can now include coaching and mentoring skills. To recruit them, we have a specific database. We also advertise the positions with educational agencies and in institutions for volunteers. We received 500 answers to a survey asking people to become mentors. Our target is to find 100 mentors per country – across Europe. Upon contact, 25 % wanted to hear more about becoming mentors. We now have 25 mentors in each country. We work across 20 institutions – we targeted people that went to an adult education class – around 100 people.
We´re now in the process of creating material for them. We´ll interview them once they have shown further interest, this September. The training will supposedly start in October. It consists of three half-day sessions – nine hours in total. The first one is to start the project, after which we leave them with material for four additional weeks. We then organise a second session and that´s when they start as mentors. The third session takes place at the end of June, next year.
Once we have seen if the tools are useful, we will put them online so that other organisations can use them. Our achievement is to have introduced the project and its activities.
Key factors of success
- Being honest with your partners about what can and cannot be done
- Good communication
- Clear vision – about what to do
- Good “skills mix” across the partners
- Flexibility in audiences and multiple strands