Two of our Young Reps met local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative, North-East Somerset) for a conversation here at Mentoring Plus. One of our Bath University placement students joined in, with staff members Jamie and Michelle too.
Mentoring Plus has no political affiliation, but we’re not afraid of advocating issues for young people with politicians and others. We’re also interested in giving young people a voice, and helping them feel a sense of their own entitlement over the time, attention and effort of the people who represent them. Mr Rees-Mogg had requested the visit, which was appreciated.
To be fair, though, there was some trepidation among the participants before Mr Rees-Mogg arrived. Would he ask difficult questions? Would he be too posh and plummy to understand them?
This didn’t last long, and the MP representing most of our mentee families outside the city of Bath was keen to hear from the boys about their past experiences, about mentoring and things that concerned them. Topics included bullying on school buses, rural isolation, mental health, young people getting involved in politics, and the funding voluntary sector institutions will need to soak up statutory care budget cuts.
Duncan said: “I felt that Jacob listened to all of us and he was an understanding man. He was interested in the problems that face us. He was also interested in my involvement in rugby. I had to tell him what a scrum half pass was. He had a nice car, too.”
Bradley added: “In my opinion, Jacob Rees-Mogg was particularly intrigued by the different stories and issues young people face in life that aren’t always broadcast.”
Katie is among our in-school mentoring students who undertook a Silver Arts Award this year.
A visit to a museum (not a place I’d normally go!)
We visited the Holbourne Museum as part of our Silver Arts project.
We went to see 4 exhibitions at the museum. It wasn’t a place I would normally go but I did enjoy it. First we saw Julian Opie which was a mix of modern and traditional paintings. I liked the modern muti media pictures. Some of them were digital and they moved or winked or followed you with their eyes. It was strange at first. We had lots of pictures taken copying the poses of the people in the pictures. I liked the outdoor pieces, these use moving lights.
We also saw an art installation, I’d never seen this before, it was by Tessa Farmer. I realise art isn’t just paintings. It was a strange mix of furniture, china, dead insects flying around. It was weird! We also got to try on wigs. I liked we could dress up.
It was the first time I’ve been to an art exhibition, I realised art can be for everyone. Maybe I would go again!
Sophie is a year 11 student who followed the Silver Arts Award course this year with Mentoring Plus.
We started the silver arts award in October 2013, it helps teens to grow confidence to talk to other young people and to get us out of one place. First of all we went to meet Mentoring Plus, then they took us to City of Bath University then we started getting out of Bath.
We went to Bristol, we got on the train and bus then we walked to the youth project but before we went in we look at the Graffiti and took photos, then we went to the Station project to talk to the young people. They told us that Bristol can become really dangerous at night time.
We went to Stroud we got on the train but the wait was really long for the next train. I have learnt that we need to double check what platform we need to be on. We found that Stroud has a big drugs problem for young people as there isn’t anything to do.
The last visit was to London it was really AMAZING, I want to go back again. We learnt that London is not all about being rich it has a high crime rate. We went to a youth project were the help people that were a risk of a offending. We got a lot of photos. The building was really nice. We went to the London eye. It would be nice to take a boat next time. We hope to go back to the youth theatre Intermission in October to see a Shakespeare play and talk to the young people again.
The Egg Theatre – Per Mission Blog
We went to see a dance production at the Egg called Per Mission on 2nd April 2014.
It outlined love and sex as a journey. The piece was in two parts starting with the thrill of expectation and the action turning into a wild and thrilling night. The first section was well rehearsed and choreographed by Colin Poole and dancers displayed a range of styles including ballet and contemporary styles.
The second half was much freer in style, it was much more improvised. Music and lighting were used to heighten the piece. There were no words in the piece, a lot of the story was left to the audience to work out the message. I hadn’t seen anything like this before.
Colin Westgate Iceland Photography – Royal Photography Society Exhibition
We went to visit our first art exhibition. The group chose to see a photography exhibition.
We walked to the exhibition from school as it was close. We found out about it on the internet. It was a small exhibition but the photos were really good. I like the way the artist made landscapes look like something else. In one photo he made the ice look like diamonds by using shade.
They had books and leaflets for us to read too and the gallery owners came to talk to us. They have exhibitions that change every month and it is free to get into the gallery.
Kyra reviews a photography exhibition she visited as part of her Silver Arts Award with Mentoring Plus.
I enjoyed going to see a photography exhibition at The Royal Society of Photography. I had heard about it from a friend and really wanted to go. The photos were of Iceland, they were mainly black and white. I preferred this, some had colour in.
It was quite peaceful and all the photos were laid out simply, black frames to highlight the images.
We met one of the students who talked to us. We were told the exhibitions change each month and it’s free to get in, they also run workshops on how to learn about photography.
My favourite picture was a tree stuck in the deep snow. I could imagine someone walking and the snow falling.
I enjoyed the exhibition and I would like to see more in future.
Megan undertook the Silver Arts Award, equivalent to a short GCSE, in school with Mentoring Plus this year. She reviews two events and reveals how the experience has changed her.
Silver Arts performance review
Our Silver Arts group have been visiting arts projects. Our first visit was to a photography gallery in Bath at The Royal Photography Society. The exhibition was of landscapes by Colin Westgate. The pictures were of Iceland. I liked the use of shade in the photos, most were black and white but some had a bit of colour. I liked the venue it was simple in design so the people could see the photos.
From this exhibition we decided to hold our own photography exhibition and take photos throughout our travels across the country. We invited our family’s teachers and other projects to come and see our work.
The second event was at the Egg Theatre it was a dance show about love and sex, it wasn’t what we expected, although it was interesting, the subject made me feel a bit uncomfortable but it was still good. The performance showed a different kind of love.
In the middle of the show they got us to interact! They told us to look at the person next to us and hug, kiss or shake their hand, it was so much fun!
The company answered questions at the end of the show which was interesting. We found out how they rehearsed and how long it took to practice the piece. I would recommend people to see the show.
Mentoring Plus Silver Arts – My Journey
Mentoring Plus has been working with Hayesfield School to run the Silver Arts Award. It helps young people develop their confidence and organise events. We have visited lots of places which has been AMAZING! We have been to Bristol, Stroud and London. We found out surprising things when we talked to young people about their lives which were at times sad. On the trips we took photos so we could show people where we had been.
The exhibition helped build my confidence. I can now talk to the teachers who I couldn’t talk to before. They asked me questions and I just started talking so much!
The project has helped me to become more confident. At the beginning I couldn’t even sit in the same room as the others, now I can sit in the room and talk to people. The Silver Arts project has helped me prepare for college in September and helped me meet new people.
Shauna was one of the year 11 students who worked through her Silver Arts Award course this year with guidance and support from Mentoring Plus. She discusses two of the arts events the group went to.
Colin Westgate Iceland Photography – Royal Society of Photography
I hadn’t been to gallery before, I’d seen professional photographs, and I liked the way they were displayed.
The photos were so nice; it was hard to understand they were of real places. I liked how the artist used light and shade to make the pictures stand out. They looked almost too perfect. It wasn’t like I imagined the landscape to look. You could feel the power of the elements. I would like to go Iceland or somewhere like that!
The gallery was nice if a little small. I wanted more to look at and walk around. As a result of going to this exhibition as a group we decided to run our own photography exhibition showing photos we took from visiting places around the country to talk to young people and get their views on where they live.
The Egg Permission
This was a dance show about Love and Sex and relationships. I had been to a dance show before but I hadn’t seen anything like this before. It was quite graphic and was awkward at times. I did like the first half the dancing, was very good and choreographed.
The show was performed by State of Emergency productions. They use music and dance to get people thinking about messages. This piece was unusual as it had no words, only dance, movement and music. It left the audience questioning issues of love, lust, relationships and consent.
State of Emergency has an education aspect to it and goes into schools and run workshops. They told us that some schools have closed the performance down because the adults were too uncomfortable. I feel that young people need to know and be able to talk about openly about sex and so we can make good choices in future.
Exciting times as we see the launch of our enhanced mentoring service, as commissioned by Bath & NE Somerset Council for another 3 years.
Our work, covering 12-21 year olds outside the school environment, is also being generously supported by The Blagrave Trust, the Henry Smith Charity, Medlock Charitable Trust, and RMTGB.
For the past 15 years, Mentoring Plus has provided mentoring delivered by skilled staff and trained volunteer mentors. Each year, we support a minimum of 40 young people facing life challenges by listening to them, making a plan and helping them access the same life chances as other young people.
The need is as great as ever. Every child and young person needs some help – some need specialist support to help them overcome obstacles, improve self-esteem, engage effectively with additional support services and access inspirational opportunities.
One to one mentoring is simple, low-cost and very effective. It helps young people to:
- ensure they don’t get into trouble with the police
- realise their potential through education, training and work
- be healthier through understanding risky behaviour
- engage with our partners to benefit from a range of support and opportunities
- help others and their community
- be more confident and inspired about the future.
Applicants must be 12 – 21 years old. They must be interested in being mentored. They must either live, be educated or work in Bath and North East Somerset. They also need to fulfil our risk factor criteria – more details on our referral form.
Our enhanced service accelerates support and ensures it stays focused throughout. Once a referral has been accepted for matching we provide the following for up to a year:
- A named link worker assigned from our team
- Introductory meetingwithin 10 working days of accepting a referral for matching
- Personal Plan developed with the young person within 20 working days
- Personal Mentor agreed within 6 weeks of accepting a referral
- E-mentoring for connecting digitally with mentors and staff
- Taster and group activitiesto develop confidence, have new experiences and access new opportunities across Bath and North East Somerset
- Community project to contribute and make a difference locally
- Exit planning with links to services and transitional support on leaving our service.
In addition, 16 to 21 year olds are offered:
- Vocational skills group – regular sessions exploring life, work, training & learning
- Peer Mentoring – the chance to be trained and supported to mentor others.
Young people stay involved in what happens to them right from the start as they develop a Personal Plan with their link worker. This includes:
- three-monthly reviews with staff and mentor, and an exit plan
- regular Team Around the Child (TAC) meetings and Early Helps Offers (such as CAFs) as appropriate
- effective links with family, school and relevant services
- a monthly budget to spend on activities with their mentor
- a regular Young Links group for participants to give us feedback, develop activities and find out about other helpful services
- being part of our annual Celebration event.
Sadly, we regularly receive more referrals than we are able to match immediately. We therefore offer a bespoke mentoring service that can be bought in by schools or services wishing to offer mentoring more immediately, or for more than one young person.
Enquiries? Please contact:
I’ve been thinking a lot about choices of late. I guess a big part of that was being offered this job as Director. I knew I wanted to run an organisation like this one, and I got offered it, so the choice to take it was simple. The choices available to our young people at the project aren’t always that clean-cut.
This morning I had four choices for getting to work. I could drive my car, ride my bike, get the bus or walk. It was raining, so bike or walking were out. My wife wanted the car, so it was the bus – £4.60 for an all-day ticket. Decision made.
I take the range of choices available to me every day throughout my life for granted. Some of my choices are defined by money – having a car, a bike, enough money for bus fare.
Some choices are available because I’m confident enough to take them – meeting new people, playing football badly, applying for new jobs, travelling to new places. Why shouldn’t I?
So money and confidence make choices possible. A third driver of choice seemed to be knowledge that the choice was available.
I know through experience things that might be abstract to other people. I’ve been to university, acted in a play, meditated, got muddy at a music festival, and now I’m running a charity.
I’ve been encouraged to do all these things so I know them as a reality, not some vague idea intended for other people.
And having life choices is addictive. I know I can have more of these experiences, similar or different. The world is my oyster, if I can get the washing up done, kids to bed and keep my eyes open long enough to reach them.
What if as a young person you have none of these, or a significant deficit of one or more? How does that limit your chance to be happy, healthy and play a positive part in your community?
What if you don’t have the confidence to thrive at school, the knowledge at home to support your studies, or the money to pay for extra tuition? What if your local youth club is closed and you can’t afford the bus fare into town? What if you have no idea what skills and talents you might have, and nobody to help you find out?
The rhetoric of recession tells us the state is increasingly limited in its ability to construct and offer choices. Our work tells me that this is the only way we can meet the needs of these young people and help them fulfil their potential.
It’s not just about amounts of money, but the way it’s spent. Enabling young people to know and understand their choices, and to access them through building confidence, is every bit as significant as providing money to deliver those opportunities.
I chose to do what I do to help give young people choices, and I’m privileged to work alongside nearly 40 volunteers each year who give their time and brilliance for the same reason. Over the next few years we want to double the number of volunteers that help broaden the choices of our young and most vulnerable.
Is mentoring a choice you’d be open to considering?
Poet Rebecca Tantony took the good and bad memories of being young from the audience at our 15th anniversary celebration at the egg, Theatre Royal Bath, and turned them into a spine-tingling live poetry performance in just 25 minutes.
Here’s what she wrote.
Do you remember when freedom tasted like optimism?
This thick, forest of hope on the tip of our tongues.
These fun, sun hung morning bus journeys to school.
Flicking love letters to classmates, screwed up balls of secrets
caught open palmed by chance.
Do you remembering discovering a coded language;
that boys had something we would never know,
that girls had things they would never show,
and that we all would grow bigger than our dreams.
Bigger than the villages we were born into and the city scenes.
Bigger than learning and mistakes.
Do you remember how we finally found our place?
Sat on miniature chairs, chewing strawberry laces and fried eggs,
do you remember being so tired but refusing to ever go to bed?
Now all you want to do is sleep.
Do you remember how you were always trying to fit in,
start over, start afresh, start sitting comfortable in your skin,
that awkward feeling of authority,
trapped and ambitions and the ordinary.
Do you remember being so young that your pupils spoke of infinite,
when BMX rides led us further than we could ever be,
when first kisses were sloppy paddling pools and our cheeks blushed the
colour of bleeding skin,
when our bones were aching and
our teeth were full of milk.
Do you remember when we spoke only in hope and insecurity?
When sick meant something good and wicked meant something extraordinary.
Do you remember when freedom was found in bikesheds,
scratched on the tables of maths lessons and the back of toilet doors,
do you remember everything you were growing towards?
This invisible place where you would finally find all that you knew you could do.
Well guess what,
we grew to there,
now it’s over to you.
There are some dangerous myths about youth crime.
Rates of crime, including youth crime, have significantly fallen since the 1990s, yet most of us think they have increased.
We believe teenage pregnancy rates are climbing when in fact they are the lowest for 40 years.
Newspapers are full of reports of gang and knife crime, but the 2011-2012 murder rate was the lowest for nearly 30 years. We fear drug-fuelled gang culture, but youth use of drugs, particularly Class A drugs, has declined in recent years.
Why this gap between perception and reality? When I became Chairman of the Youth Justice Board in 2004, I knew that twenty years of political ‘arms race’ getting tough on law and order had already played on these fears.
During my tenure I saw how police targets for ‘offences brought to justice’ led to record high numbers of children and young people in custody. Youth crime wasn’t rising overall. Instead we were viewing as ‘criminal’ behaviour that might previously have been punished within school, family or community – behaviour which many respectable adults have dabbled in, including myself.
Our perceptions of crime grew as a result. Nor did youth offending fall as a result of these punitive measures. Indeed the best evidence shows that bringing young people into the arena of police, courts and custody increases the risk of re-offending.
Today we’re making progress. The number of youths in custody has fallen from about 3,000 in 2007 to fewer than 1,300 in June 2013 not due to the success of the previous policy, but its quiet abandonment for economic reasons.
I’m far from complacent: the ages of 15-18 are still the peak years for offending and one third of all indictable convictions are handed out to under-21s. But myths about youth crime, and the right ways to reduce it, are dangerous. They help criminalise and exclude young people who need opportunity and support.
So I’m proud to use my experience to support organisations like Dance United, Jamie’s Farm and Mentoring Plus who are doing just that. I’m amazed when I learn how much their young people have to cope with, and all the more inspired by what they can achieve when given the chance.
Rod Morgan is Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at the University of Bristol and was formerly HM Chief Inspector of Probation (2001-4) and Chairman of the Youth Justice Board (2004-7). This commentary is based on a longer article by Prof Morgan for Outlook, the magazine published by Children England.