Giving students a second chance

Volunteers work with children at The Harbour School in Portsmouth who are unable to go to regular school. (left to right), Poppy Holloway (14), Kirstie Atkinson of TMMS, Adam Walker (16), Debby Couzens of TMMS and Jesse Liles (16).'''Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (132002-3)
Volunteers work with children at The Harbour School in Portsmouth who are unable to go to regular school. (left to right), Poppy Holloway (14), Kirstie Atkinson of TMMS, Adam Walker (16), Debby Couzens of TMMS and Jesse Liles (16).'''Picture: Ian Hargreaves (132002-3)

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Hundreds of young people around England received their GCSE results last week but for some students, school isn’t plain sailing.

And that is where the Targeted Mentoring Support Service (TMSS) comes in.

A team of mentors works with students from Portsmouth schools providing a tailor-made student course.

The small group gives young people another chance at education as well as teaching them life skills and preparing them for work.

The students are offered the chance to gain new skills, qualifications and post-16 education and training.

Debby Couzens, a mentor for TMSS, says the service gives students another chance.

‘Not all students are academically gifted so we provide vocational-based activities,’ she says.

‘We wanted to show how well students can do when they are taught with the right approach.

‘At the moment, we take on students in Key Stage Four which is from 14 to 16 years old.

‘Currently, we work with 72 kids in Portsmouth all with different backgrounds so it is important that we work with each of them individually and teach them what is best for them.

‘We want them to leave here with qualifications to set them up for further education whether that is college or an apprenticeship.’

TMSS is under the umbrella of the Harbour School @ Milton but it takes on students from schools around the Portsmouth area.

Once the students are referred, an individual learning plan is compiled and statistics show that this is a successful approach from the mentors at TMSS.

Since 2007, the programme has seen an increase of nine per cent in students going into apprenticeships or further education after the scheme.

In 2012, 97 per cent of students achieved this.

And, with a wide range of courses and qualifications available, this figure could continue to rise.

The programme offers a Level 1 qualification in photography, construction and boxing as well as a IMI Level 1 qualification in motor vehicle maintenance, an apprenticeship City & Guilds Level 1 and 2 in hair and beauty and GCSEs in maths and English.

Full-time college placements can also be arranged through the scheme.

For manager Kirstie Atkinson it is important to see what the students want and match their qualifications to that.

She says: ‘We sit down with the students and we ask them what their ambitions are, what they enjoy, and we come up with a schedule of work experience, activities and courses.

‘We look for options that suit them and that will get them either into work or college.

‘We are a new start for them as we draw a line under anything they’ve done in the past and give them one last shot of having an education.

‘All the mentors treat them as adults which is what the students prefer.

‘Many don’t like the authority of school and as they get older, they start to act up.

‘Here, we treat them as grown-ups and let them make the choices that will affect their future.’

Kirstie adds: ‘All our students have to get GCSEs or an equivalent qualification in English and maths.

‘But after that, we get them to tell us their interests and we choose subjects and courses that cater to that.

‘The government is moving in a different direction to us, and now that GCSEs are harder, students can be put off and stop trying.

‘We aim to tap into what the students are good at so we can give them more confidence and the chance to gain real skills.

‘We also want to give them the best possible chance to succeed in life.’

Students are referred to TMSS for a number of reasons. These include being bullied at their former school, exclusions, behavioural incidents, anxiety or mental health problems.

If schools find these issues are reoccurring, they can refer the student.

Once the pupils are identified, the school completes the necessary forms and send them to TMSS. The parents are then contacted for an initial assessment.

TMSS contact the school to confirm the placement of the student.

One of five mentors is then allocated to the student before the individual timetable is drawn up that fits in with the needs of the students and their parents.

They will then spend their remaining time in education at the school having one-to-one sessions with their mentors as well as completing their courses and other subjects of interest.