New pastures for mentoring services

Developing South London services for vulnerable children

After 30 years of working to successfully deliver mentoring for children in the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington, Friendship Works is now expanding services across London. This work has been made possible by The Tudor Trust, a long-term supporter of the charity.

Development of a Southwark service began in April 2011 by establishing partnerships with Keyworth Primary School and Walworth Academy in the local area as referral sources for children needing mentors. Additional resource within the Friendship Works team means that this expansion can now take priority for the organisation as referrals start to come in. The first mentoring matches are in place, and Friendship Works is now agreeing partnerships with four other primary schools in Southwark.

Transition-age mentoring

Friendship Works will focus on providing mentoring for children aged 8-11 in Southwark who are at the stage of preparing for the move from primary to secondary school.

The transition from primary to secondary school can often evoke many different feelings and experiences for children and their families. Many schools and local authorities already work hard to ensure strategies and systems are in place to support children through a smooth process. There are many children for whom these systems are enough and they are able to cope with the transition. However, there are other children who may lack the resilience to handle the adjustment due to the fact that they don’t have adequate social support networks outside of the classroom.

The transition to secondary school can also be an experience where inequalities and differences in children’s home circumstances can become more apparent. The impact of this experience and the associated anxiety, lack of confidence and self-esteem may go on to affect their ability to engage with their education and peers. As such, vulnerable children require additional sensitivity and support to help them navigate this process.

The individual attention and support of a mentor can help a child at primary school in addressing worries and anxieties, is reassuring and encouraging and is also a consistent and stable resource throughout an unsettling period of major change, excitement and anxiety about the future.

CEO Richard Turner explains the reason for focusing on mentoring for children in this specific age group:

“Transition and change is unsettling at any stage of life, and more so in childhood when the ability to understand or control that change is limited. For children between the ages of 8-11, making the transition from primary to secondary school is a big shift. There are many demands, from schoolwork requirements and exams, to making new friends and forming relationships with new teachers. Schools work hard to ensure a smooth transition, but for children who are already struggling to cope with complicated lives and lots of change or conflict at home, the additional stress can be overwhelming.

“The support of a mentor during this period of uncertainty can be a real life-saver, providing consistency, someone to talk to and someone to support them into the next stage of their life.”