The young people we work with have interests that often surprise us, and always grab our attention: this year our mentees experimented with SFX make-up; studied vexillology (no, we didn't know either); and visited the Royal Botanic Gardens on a photography adventure. Below are a few highlights from their LUL sessions...
Good advice from one of our favourite authors here at Light Up Learning, and never more so than on #ExamResultsDay. Tomorrow will see many young people across the country making important decisions about their future, whilst navigating the accompanying emotional highs and lows: we’ve put together a list of the various places you can head to for support, and find help to explore your options.
First of, Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) have a guide to understanding anxiety and panic attacks, should you find yourself overwhelmed.
Skills Development Scotland run an Exam Results helpline that offers free “advice, information and support when you’re not sure what your options are.” They operate Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 August, 8am-8pm, and Thursday 8 to Wednesday 14 August, 9am-5pm. Call 0808 100 8000.
Covering everything from how to support your friends, to a list of celebs who didn’t let disappointing exam results hold them back, Young Scot’s Exam Results guides have you covered.
Read one 17 year old Scottish student’s concerns around opening that envelope, and why she thinks whatever is inside will be irrelevant in 10 years, on the TES site.
Parents! There’s also help for you to understand how on earth today’s results relate to the ones you received, in this handy table from the SCQF Partnership….
….or find which jobs are in demand in Scotland right now (and what kind of earning potential they have) at MyKidsCareer.
And finally, the BBC have collected stories and info, to help you put things firmly into perspective.
Whatever tomorrow holds for you, remember that there is genuinely #nowrongpath to take: the various stories on the links above demonstrate that people find their place in the world through different routes, and at different times. Here at Light Up Learning we help young people learn about what they love: if in doubt, identifying what this is, is a great place to start.
Are you excited by the prospect of taking a leading role at a young, successful charity with bags of ambition and potential?
Are you also passionate about redressing social inequity, and do you view education as one of the most effective ways of achieving that goal? Would you like to join a supportive, inclusive, collaborative team? If so, Light Up Learning is looking for someone who is enthusiastic and driven, to be its full-time Head of Mentoring.
This is an important and new role at LUL, with a focus on the quality of mentoring and the safeguarding of young people. You will act as our lead child protection officer and be responsible for delivering the Mentoring strand of our new strategy, which includes the establishment of a new youth forum.
The charity is in an exciting growth phase: in December 2018 we appointed a new full time Director and we are about to approve our future strategy for 2019–2022. Your role will be essential in helping us to grow the organisation and deliver on this strategy: including expanding into new schools, developing our mentoring model, running our evaluation process and being part of the leadership of the organisation. We are looking for the newest member of our small and friendly team, who is as passionate as us about achieving these ambitious goals.
We have a commitment to diversity and challenging all forms of inequality and are particularly keen to receive applications from Women, Black Minority and Ethnic, LGBTQI, disabled, migrant, and other backgrounds currently underrepresented within leadership roles in the third sector.
All the relevant information can be found in our information pack: download and return completed application forms to firstname.lastname@example.org, by 23:59 Sunday 11 August 2019. Please also make sure you complete our Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form. If you have any questions, ping an email to the same address: feel free to share far and wide - we’re interested in reaching as many interested folk as possible!
As the end of term approached at Lasswade, we cracked open the juice boxes and laid out the hobnobs, ready to host our mentees, their parents, carers and teachers, after the school day wrapped up.
Often, the details of what mentees are actually working on, or how a LUL mentoring session works can be a bit of a mystery: we hold regular events like these, to give all a chance to ask questions. Parents and carers are able to meet the mentors, mentees find out other mentees have been focusing on, and can also display and chat about their work. Plus, hobnobs.
Lasswade were kind enough to host us in one of their Creative Learning classrooms, and we couldn’t resist collecting images of the rather appropriately inspiring decor….
….particularly apt, given that we were also polling folks on what words they felt embodied LUL’s vision and values, using a simple dot-voting system.
Look out for an upcoming gallery of the various creations and adventures our mentees have undertaken in the past year - from cars to cartoons, football to photography!
****DEADLINE EXTENDED - OPEN TILL 9AM MONDAY 24 JUNE 2019***
Light Up Learning are looking for new trustees, to support us through an exciting period of growth. In particular, we're keen to hear from people with experience of charity governance, finance and fundraising, or with promoting equality and diversity within an organisation.
If you are a young person and you’re interested in joining our board, we’d love to hear from you also: no former experience or knowledge of board is required: just enthusiasm.
If you have any questions, ping an email to the above address: feel free to share far and wide - we’re interested in reaching as many interested folk as possible!
By Lisa Kearney, Mentor and Chloe, Mentee.
Mental Health Awareness Week is here and I (Lisa) decided to take this opportunity to explore the topic with a mentee, Chloe, who had expressed a keen interest. She has experienced her own challenges regarding mental health and is not afraid to speak out on the topic, as well as on other areas close to her heart: frequently advocating for LGBT education within schools, for example. Working with LUL has given Chloe unique time and space to explore these topics - which she is clearly very passionate about - together with the opportunity to share her views, reaching others who may be facing similar challenges.
In my time working in schools across Scotland, I have witnessed the huge struggles they face, in supporting the wellbeing of students, and the equally huge efforts they make to address these, with often limited resources. There remain challenges in tackling mental health in schools, with students often afraid to speak up: I believe it is important to provide pupils with a platform to communicate about their experiences, to encourage these conversations, and to continue to raise awareness. LUL is one such platform, and I’m proud to share Chloe’s words with you:
“As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I’ve decided to share my personal story and my opinions on this topic.
As someone who has to deal with a variety of mental health issues, I can say it can become very stressful and annoying dealing with them, especially if you are young.
Annoying may be a strange word to use, but to be honest it fits perfectly: if you have to live your daily life with, let’s say, depression or stress, that will impact you heavily. For example, if you are stressed at school you won’t focus properly, if you’re depressed you could possibly not get out of bed. There are people like myself that, even though they struggle, like to keep it hidden, that are scared to speak or come forward. Later on, this can lead to low attendance because they can’t keep hiding how they’re feeling; can’t keep putting a fake face on until it becomes much worse, becomes a serious situation that could lead to self-harm or suicide.
I think a move that would help all people with mental health, would be to support the message ‘no bullying in schools’: because the schools say they will handle it, but we don’t actually know if that stops it.
Also, there should be more welcoming places to talk freely if possible, and if not, then there should be some way to support people to feel like they can speak out about their issues. There are some great places that do work to help people overcome mental health issues: I would recommend HOTS (Health Opportunities Team). They helped me a lot from the ages of 11 to 14 and I am more stable than I was back then: still struggling but getting better, remembering the worst thing is to suffer in silence.
As Chloe rightly points out, the stigma around mental health can often add fuel to the fire, as people hide what they are experiencing. I think it’s been important for her to touch on and share some of her challenges: to take part in a nationwide campaign, have her voice heard and experiences validated. By speaking out, she is uniting with others experiencing their own mental health issues, and contributing to a national shift towards open communication, and solutions. Well done, Chloe.
If you want to talk to someone about your mental health, you can find help from the Samaritans, as well as on the Mental Health Awareness Week website. If you have a question for Lisa, or want to know more about how Light Up Learning works, you can Tweet at us, or join our mailing list for news and updates.
By Richard McLauchlan (Head of Mentoring at Castlebrae Community High School and co-founder), and one of our mentees.
It's easy to pass through school passively, making few real decisions that reflect who we are and what we'd like out of life. Classes come, classes go; break-times come, break-times go. Life flows on. Once those days are behind us, it's a bit of a shock to discover that the things we desire for ourselves don't just float into our hands. All of a sudden, we need to exert ourselves if we want to make things happen. We need to be empowered.
At LUL, we're keen to promote the active pursuit of dreams from as early as possible. That's why, when one of my football-keen S3 pupils asked how he should spend his birthday, I asked him if there was anything he really wanted to do.
"I'd love to get a tour of the Hibs stadium," he said.
"OK," I responded, "do you know anyone who has contacts with the club?"
To my surprise, he said he did. "Right, then. Why not give them a call?"
It was the student's turn to be surprised. He hesitated. "What? Just call him and ask him?"
I thought about it for a moment. "No harm in asking, is there?"
But don't let me spoil the story. Here's the student's account of what happened:
"Richard and I were trying to get a trip to the Hibs stadium as a tour and I phoned Scott Frazer, who has contacts at Hibs, from the Jack Kane Centre and he said he would get in contact soon with details. Two hours later he told me to phone him, so I did and he said he had brilliant news and said I was going to the Hibs v Aberdeen game as a flag bearer. I was shocked, surprised and a bit teary because this was a brilliant offer. So on the 2nd of February I went to the game and got a picture with the mascot and got to say 'Hi' to all the players. It was amazing that I got to go on the pitch and see in front of me all the players walk out and the fans in the stadium. It was a brilliant experience for me as a diehard Hibs fan, but unfortunately we lost 2-1. Still, I had a great time. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had."
It will come as no surprise that 'passive' is now one word that you would never associate with this particular student. He's subsequently been in contact, quite independently of LUL, with a host of youth football clubs seeking trials, one of which has already proved successful. He's also already planning work experience opportunities and thinks nothing of running off an email to those who can "make things happen". When we sat down last August for our first session, he had no email address. Setting one up together - such a small thing, but actually so empowering - was one of our first activities. The active pursuit of dreams is now, for this young man, a reality.
From Emily, Director at Light Up Learning….
LUL is all about supporting students to learn about topics that they choose. We provide them with a safe, non-judgemental space where they can explore interests and ideas that it’s sometimes not possible to give time to, in the classroom. By doing this, we help young people become excited about learning again and this then has a positive effect on their broader academic work and engagement with formal education.
“I’m more interested in the topic I’m doing, so I will put more work into it. I’m happier and feel prouder of the work I’m doing.” ~ Chloe, one of our current mentees, Mar 2019
Our students work on such a wide range of topics that it’s often hard to categorise them, even broadly. At the moment, the list includes:
Photography – one of our mentees went on a day trip to the Botanic Gardens this term and plans to return every season, learning about photography and documenting the seasons and changing natural biology.
Comics - learning how comics are put together, and spending time creating an original comic
Football - a mentee who is also a keen sportsperson researched and produced a presentation on the history of Manchester City football club; spurred on by this, we encouraged him to make some enquiries with Hibs, and he was recently invited to be a flag bearer at a local match
LGBT Rights - working on why it’s important that schools should support this work and participate in Purple Friday.
Creepy Pasta stories – exploring different creepy pasta stories (short pieces of horror fiction shared on the internet), writing their own fiction, and designing accompanying visuals
At Light Up Learning we believe that no topic is off the table. Having a supported space where young people are accepted for who they are - which includes their interests, no matter how ‘non-academic’ - is crucial for their overall learning and development: leading to increased confidence and a stronger sense of identity. If we can, we also offer relevant field trips, often to meet with people who are connected to the topic: for example our mentee Aspen learnt about filmmaking and sound recording from University of Edinburgh professionals, whilst Thomas met with a member of the Scottish Rugby team, to ask questions about their career path. Whilst we use the term ‘mentoring’, what LUL offers is unique, focusing as it does on sparking that love of learning - and supporting that over the course of several years: it’s also a two-way street, with our mentors learning just as much as our mentees do.
Images taken by one of our mentees during a recent trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.
It feels important to share our model at the moment, with the debates that have been happening in the last few weeks (and no I'm not talking about Brexit). I'm talking about the protests that took place outside a Birmingham School, about their LGBT inclusive education and the subsequent comments by ministers on what constitutes age-appropriate LGBT education. It feels like the space for inclusive education is starting to be challenged: we believe our model is important because we do take an inclusive approach - and it starts from meeting the young people where they are.
“LGBT pupils are more likely to be bullied as well as suffer mental health issues, education might help with this. If people know about the topic they might be less likely to bully others.” ~ Chloe, one of our current mentees, Mar 2019
As someone who grew up under Section 28, I know personally the damage that can be done when a wide variety of loving relationships are not shown or talked about in schools: it took me a long time to accept and be proud of my identity as a queer person. This is why I’m so passionate about supporting young people to learn about the issues that are important to them, that help them to define their identity and values.
We need to be supporting young people to explore and understand what it is that makes them unique, and this includes educating them about LGBT rights. Scotland is leading the way, with the recent announcement that LGBT-inclusive education would be implemented across all state schools; however the events last month remind us that giving students space to learn about what they want, and where they won't be judged for their interests, is vitally important.
This is what we do at LUL: it’s about working with young people where they are, and exploring what they are passionate about; it’s about giving young people positive role models and being vulnerable with our own stories and it’s about inspiring young people to be excited about learning - whether that's creating internet meme horror or researching the history of LGBT rights.
One of our students, Chloe, has been working on LGBT issues with her mentor Lisa. Here’s what she had to say on the topic:
Why is it important to pick your own topic, in your Light Up Learning sessions?
“I’m more interested in the topic I’m doing, so I will put more work into it. I’m happier and feel prouder of the work I’m doing.”
Why is it important to cover LGBT topics in schools?
“You become more educated about the best way to say things or talk about it. It also might make you more comfortable with yourself. If it’s visible you might feel more able to speak about it. You will feel more supported, it’s not like a secret. If it’s not visible in school, it might make you feel like keeping it a secret as no one is talking about it.”
“Schools should cover LGBT issues because people need educated on these topics and the challenges the LGBT community face. LGBT pupils are more likely to be bullied as well as suffer mental health issues, education might help with this. If people know about the topic they might be less likely to bully others. If there are religious barriers to LGBT education, pupils and parents should have a choice to take part in the lesson or do other work somewhere else, rather than stopping LGBT education for everyone. As a member of the LGBT community people might question you, they might not know much about it and accidently use offensive terms or language. If pupils are educated on the topic it may reduce issues for people within the community, help them feel included, and more comfortable within themselves.”
A couple of weeks before the end of the year, we welcomed our new Director to the Light Up Learning team -. Emily came to us with a long background in youth engagement and educational strategy, and some cracking stories about sheltering from the Highland weather (and coos) in a one-woman tent. You can expect to see regular updates from her here, but for now, we’ve put together a brief (illustrated) intro…
"I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 9 or 10, and there were points where I thought: 'I don't want to do any more school, I'm done!'. Having the space outside the school structure, with a dyslexia support teacher, to say 'I can't really do this' or 'I'm struggling', was really important."
"I've been involved in Girlguiding all my life and currently run a unit in Govanhill, Glasgow. In 2017 I took a group of 15-18 year olds on a trip across Europe, and because my work with young people is based in youth participation, I gave them a map of Europe and asked them where they wanted to go. I maybe learnt to put some parameters on decision making from that experience. It was great, though - we went to an international camp as well as Pride in Amsterdam, a walking tour along the Berlin wall, and the spas in Budapest ."
"What I really learnt from my first attempt at uni was what my style of learning is: I don't learn from a lecture, I need engagement and discussion, to be able to ask questions. If I'm in a lecture hall full of people, with someone writing formulas up on the board, I'm not going to understand it."
"After I graduated, I was really excited to be one of the few graduates taken on by the Department for International Development (DFID) ... I was less excited to learn I was going to be working in the Audit department. But it was such a useful grounding, in finance and project management - I learnt so many skills and got to visit 6 different country offices in a year...."
"I managed education progammes for DFID in Pakistan, where the UK Government is supporting education reform in several provinces. In some classrooms I visited there is still rote learning, with everyone copying the same piece off the board. I also visited other schools, like BRAC schools, that were such a contrast: there was colour and pictures everywhere, there's dancing. It was an amazing opportunity to think about education, how learning happens and how we measure it."
"I'm really excited by what LUL is trying to do: how do we make sure the most young people, have the best quality education? The stats say it doesn't really matter how intelligent you are, to do well in your Highers when you're at a school in the one of the most deprived parts of the UK, is much harder than when you're in a private school. We need to be breaking down the barriers of elite education, and create an education system that works for everyone. LUL is a good combination of my experiences of different education systems, my passion to create equity, the recent work I've done in social enterprise and my leadership and drive to make things happen."
"Last summer I did a big cycling trip, taking 6 weeks to travel 750 miles - from Glasgow around the west coast, all through the Western Isles, back down through Skye and Mull, to Glasgow. It was a chance to fully experience the landscape and the elements, but also to understand and participate in the various community groups I met along the way. "
"One of the biggest mentors I had was my guide leader when I was 10. She had this innate belief that I could do whatever I wanted to do. A good mentor is someone that champions you: they are there to think about you and only you, and I think that's really important."
2018 was a biggie for LUL: we grew, in more ways than one, and often found ourselves in unexpected (but exciting) terrain. Here’s how our year looked…
STARTING AT A NEW SCHOOL can often be daunting… especially if you’ve already graduated. Earlier this year we expanded the number of mentees we were able to work with, and welcomed two new mentors: Lisa and Mark* As they near the end of their first term, we check in with them….
LUL: Going back into school as an adult can be a strange experience. What was it like returning to those halls?
Mark: It was interesting – I think there’s a part of me that still doesn’t want to admit, almost Peter Pan like, that I’ve grown up. I thought I would relate more to the students than to the teachers, and then quickly realised, oh wait, the *staff* are my peers.
Lisa: Before I joined LUL, I was already working in one school, so I had become used to the environment. But every school is different: now I’m in 3, and they each have a distinct personality, and a unique feel to them: different challenges, different pupils.
“When I asked for her advice, she said: ‘Kids smell b******* really quickly. If you fake enthusiasm, they’ll know you’re not being genuine, and they won’t respond to it. Just be yourself.’”
LUL: And what about the mentoring itself: did you have any expectations going in?
L: I thought there might be more of focus on producing work, but it’s more about engaging the mentees, and building up a relationship with them. I picture it like a river: you have to adapt to the flow, and what’s happening with the young person. So maybe you’re chatting about things, you’re on course, and then you’ll come across something else, and you meander.
M: There’s definitely external factors that play into it as well. One week one of my quieter students turned up full of smiles and chat and I thought I’ve broken through, I’ve done it! Turns out the new Red Dead Redemption game had come out that weekend…
LUL: Describing what LUL does can often be tricky. How do you explain it to your mentees?
L: I described it as learning about whatever you’re interested in. Not having to follow what the school says, or what you’re supposed to do, it’s what you want to do.
M: Yes, I was the same. I also shared a bit about me, and then I often talk them through making a mind map of their interests, with various prompts: what they do after school, what movies they’re into…. we use that as a base to jump off from.
L: A lot of it is just listening to what the young person has to say: sometimes it can just be one word that I’ll pick up on and say: tell me more about that. If you have a rigid plan, you might get stressed about sticking to it: you can’t really be like that with young people, as they probably have other ideas.
“It’s not that young people don’t want to engage in things, or don’t want to do their best – it’s that there are barriers to them doing so, that we can’t necessarily see.”
LUL: So you almost work it out together?
L: Yes. This is their time, I’m not there to tell them what they have to do, I’m there to listen to what they want to do and work around that. It’s important to be authentic, and that helps the relationship to develop: once you have that, it’s easier to engage with them.
M: When I first got this job I spoke to my old English teacher, who I’m still friends with and who was a big influence on me. When I asked for her advice, she said: “Kids smell b******* really quickly. If you fake enthusiasm, they’ll know you’re not being genuine, and they won’t respond to it. Just be yourself.” I was slightly concerned that if I had a student, who, for example, said: “I really love make-up” then I might be stumped. I’ve realised I am able to say: “I know absolutely nothing about make-up, and I’ve never really looked into it, but great, let’s do it, I’m sure we’ll find interesting stuff!”. And we do.
Where I can, I also try to tie the stuff we’re doing in the sessions, to what’s happening in the world. When Stan Lee passed away recently, it actually prompted a very interesting session with one of my mentees: we watched a video that had just been posted, about how he purposefully didn’t write Spiderman to be like the usual, infallible hero and that made him so much more complex. We then talked about that, and fed it into the work we were doing. I try and keep an eye out for that kind of stuff: it helps them realise their interests aren’t just this random obscure thing, it’s stuff that’s out in the world, ongoing.
LUL: What do you feel you’ve learnt from the experience, thus far (apart from young people’s extraordinary olfactory abilities)?
L: I’ve learnt more about seeing things from a young person’s perspective. I have a mentee who initially didn’t want to engage at all with the programme and didn’t even want to meet me to speak. Now he is very responsive, and I can tell that he really enjoys it. I’ve spent some time reflecting on that and think this will inform my approach in the future: it’s not that young people don’t want to engage in things, or don’t want to do their best – it’s there are barriers to them doing so, that we can’t necessarily see.
M: Yeah. There’s been a few moments - and from an external point of view, they probably don’t look like big achievements - but there are little victories that are really good to see. One of my students was really nervous and struggled to open up: I’d tried asking open questions, and they would not be able to respond; I tried asking closed questions and I’d get a one or two word response and then they’d stop. But then the first time that they actually spoke to me, without me having to ask: they just had a thing they really wanted to tell me…. I didn’t make a big deal of it, but in my head there were party poppers going off. So there’s lots of little moments like that, where for that student, and on that day, it’s a really cool moment.
*You can read all about them on our People page. It’s worth it.
ONE of the unique things about LUL, is something we like to call ‘LUL Time’. No matter what our role, whether we’re full or part-time, we each spent 10% of our working hours on learning about a subject that interests us. We’ve had some weird and wonderful topics make that list: including poisonous tree frogs, how to take better photos, and whether you can conclusively prove that someone is either a dog or a cat person. Here, our director Richard explains why his decision study Latin and Greek led to some unexpected conclusions…
Being the up-to-date, hip* kind of man that I am, I have naturally chosen to study the languages of the ancient Greeks and Romans during my weekly LUL Time. But didn’t someone of a poetic bent once say: “Latin is a language,/ As dead as dead can be./ First it killed the Romans,/ And now it’s killing me”? There are a number of intelligent-sounding, but largely false reasons I could give for choosing to learn these languages, once the bane of many a snotty-nosed ten-year-old . I could tell you, for instance, that it helps me understand language itself better (do you know what a gerund** is? No? How about a diphthong*** ?) or that it gives me an insight into the history of English (did you know that more than half the words in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution are Latin derivatives?).
But my real reason isn’t nearly so understandable, let alone respectable. The most important reason I’m learning Latin and Greek is that I enjoy learning them! This doesn’t fit neatly into a world obsessed with producing productive consumers. As classicist and journalist, Charlotte Higgins writes: “For me the pleasure of Latin is precisely because it is ‘useless’. Latin doesn’t help to turn out factory-made mini-consumers fit for a globalised 21st-century society. It helps create curious, intellectually rigorous kids with a rich interior world, people who have the tools to see our world as it really is because they have encountered and imaginatively experienced another that is so like, and so very unlike, our own.”
Learning something for its own sake, for the sheer joy of it, is deeply counter-cultural. But, paradoxically, it can end up being incredibly useful too. The more open you are to the value of a subject in its own right, without demanding that it ‘takes you up in the world’, the more you develop the capacity to explore things carefully and without prejudice, to respect and admire the world around you, and to get alongside those who would rather promote what is good than simply promote themselves: not a bad set of tools to help you get through, and even flourish in, the complexities of life.
It’s precisely this type of learning – which turns contemporary notions of ‘achievement’ on their head – that LUL seeks to promote. For most of our students it won’t be Latin and Greek that will capture their interest (shock horror), but every one of them will have the chance to explore topics and questions that truly excite them, without worrying about an exam or a grade at the end of it. In such a context, the love of learning grows and a new form of ‘achievement’ is born.
* Old fogey alert
** Gerunds are words that are formed with verbs but act as nouns. For example, in the sentence ‘Learning Latin can actually be fun’, the word ‘learning’ is being used as a noun but it’s formed from the verb ‘to learn’. The ‘ing’ is the big give away for a gerund in English. Be aware that there’s another type of word ending in ‘ing’ in English and this is called a ‘present participle’, but I’ll let you look that up for your next LUL Time!
*** This has nothing to do with scanty pieces of clothing or flip flops. A diphthong is the sound you make when you pronounce a combination of two vowels in a single syllable, with the sound beginning as one vowel and becoming another, such as in the words ‘loud’ and ‘toil’.
If you’re new to LUL, been curious to know more about what kind of subjects our mentees are passionate about (spoiler: they are beautifully random), or want to hear more about the impact our work has, look no further.
Mentee Aspen made this short video about us, as her final LUL project: conceived, directed, filmed and edited single-handedly. We’re pretty darn chuffed.
A huge thanks and congratulations to Aspen, who has taken those video skills to her new university in China. Watch this space.
“LUL has made me realise that my opinion is valid and that there are people that want to hear it.”
Aspen was speaking to a packed room, gathered to celebrate our first ever graduation. One of the original group of young people that we worked with, Aspen was just 13 when her and her mentor Richard, first met. Although she was clearly a bright person, hefty struggles with self-belief and self-expression had left Aspen drifting further and further from school life and learning. Three and a half years and many LUL sessions later, she confidently stood up to tell the room (which included some pretty Important Official People) about her imminent departure to study in China for a year, presenting a vlog all about her journey with LUL (look out for that in a couple of weeks).
With the type of work that we do, it can sometimes be hard to measure impact. People – and we include ourselves in this - often crave stats, a graph showing some kind of percentage climbing through the roof: we’ve found that whilst we can provide those, it’s the story behind the figures that provides any motivation needed on a dreich Monday morning. Hence taking over a classroom in Lasswade and filling it with the extended LUL community and a ridiculous amount of sausage rolls. Nothing communicates better the effect of the work we do – along with our partners - than hearing the mentees themselves stand up and enthusiastically tell you about their future plans; to see a parent so affected by witnessing the change in their child that they make a point of telling every person in the room about it; or perhaps best of all, having to (politely) tell the aforementioned Important Official People that they need to stop chatting to the mentees and the teachers and shift, so you can have your tea.
The stories keep coming: Cameron (another of our original cohort) was inspired by his LUL sessions to see school through to the end, and is now off to study Travel and Tourism at Edinburgh College; Jamie achieved AAB at National 5 Level and was headhunted for a competitive apprenticeship; and Thomas spoke about how his relationship with his mentor helped him to turn an interest in rugby into a committed journey to study Sports Psychology at university – and when he’s not talking Scotland team stats, Thomas is talking about how he can become a LUL mentor himself.
It’s important to note that none of this – including the sausage rolls - would be possible without a whole host of supporters. Our celebration was also an opportunity to thank our committed and engaged funders, the teachers who work incredibly hard for the young people in their care, the outside professionals who give generously of their time and expertise, and the parents who support the programme at home. You’ll be hearing from our mentees again in the future, and needless to say, we’re proud of all the young people we’ve had the privilege to work with – thanks most of all to them.
WE'RE HIRING! The last 3 years have seen LUL grow from a passionate conversation between two friends about equity in education... to a team whose work is changing the lives of young people in Edinburgh and Midlothian. If you have bags of ambition, a community spirit, and fancy leading the next phase of our growth, we want to hear from you…. are you our new Director?
*The role will involve appreciating puns, just to warn you.
The last year has been a Big One: the LUL story has taken some unexpected (but exciting) turns, welcomed some new main characters, and seen us embark upon a whole new chapter with our mentoring. Our major plot points have included:
- Field trips involving an architectural tour of Edinburgh (designed and led by one of our mentees), a chat with former Scotland Rugby team member Ross Rennie and a one-on-one tutorial with Edinburgh College of Art’s Film & TV department.
- Growing our team from 4 to 6, with the arrival of two new mentors, Lisa and Mark
- Joining the community at Castlebrae Community High School (they deserve us using the word twice)
- The departure of one of our first ever mentees for an exchange year in China (good luck, Aspen!)
- Renewing our programme at Lasswade High School, bringing the number of Light Up Learners (or mentees) from 12 to 19.
- Our director Richard taking on Foxlake’s water-based assault course (pictures can’t do it justice).
- The graduation of our first group of Light Up Learners, after 3 and a half years with their mentors: a proud and inspiring moment for all of us (see picture above - more to come on this).
- An enormous amount of learning and LULs (geddit?) along the way.
And that’s just the stuff that made it to the page*.
One change to our team is the addition of Erin, our new Culture and Community Manager: she’ll be regularly collecting LUL stories to share here, so let us know if you have one to tell (or there’s something you want to hear about). You can also sign up to our quarterly newsletter (quality not quantity, we reckon), or join the conversation over on Twitter: here’s to the next 12 months.
*we won’t bore you with the tales of our epic wrestling bouts with the legendary monster that is GDPR
Steph Pethick, one of our fearless mentors, is on a mission: 1) to prove that math is FUN (I disagree); and 2) to prove that you can, in fact, justify getting paid to walk your dog if you bring in the scientific research to back you up.
Here’s what she had to say about how she brought her dog, Sherlock, into one of her mentoring sessions last year:
I had a very sweet student with some major stress and confidence issues. Having struggled with stress myself, I could definitely relate. One of the ways I decided to try and manage my stress was by getting my dog, Sherlock. After getting him, I really noticed a difference in my stress levels.
I thought I’d do some research into the science behind this. Was there an actual scientific link between owning a dog and having less stress? Or was I just destined to be a dog lady?
What I found was that petting a dog can decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase levels of oxytocin (the stress-reducing hormone). So, it was true! Being around Sherlock was making me less stressed.
With my new knowledge, I took my stressed-out student for a dog walk with Sherlock near the school last year. Instantly, I saw a difference in my student. He was so chatty, and any self-confidence issues he had shown beforehand went straight out the window. Because he was so focused on playing with Sherlock and throwing Sherlock’s toy, my student was okay with opening up to me about his life.
I felt that, if we hadn’t done this session, it would have taken me a lot longer to get my student to be as relaxed. Walking Sherlock worked as an ice breaker for us and helped my student to feel more confident and less stressed.
By the end of the year, he was receiving compliments from his teachers on how much he’d changed!
Thank you to Steph (for being an amazing mentor) and to Sherlock (for being so darn cute).
In other news, today, our Director (and resident hole-punch artist) Richard McLauchlan
is attending “When Education Becomes Possible,” an event “on the transformative nature of education." Richard and a couple of our students will be there to talk about Light Up Learning and to hear the stories of other education-focused organisations in Scotland. Stop by if you’re in the neighbourhood; or, if you, like me, are marooned on a different continent and unable to attend this wonderful event, check back here in a couple of weeks for Richard’s recap!
We’re looking for an organised, driven self-starter to join our team as our Operations Manager.
Reporting to the Programme Director, the successful candidate will be charged with building a strong base of good operations and business practices for our growing programme. They will be responsible for finances, operations, administration, and relationship management.
This is a part-time contract position (15 hours) with potential for further responsibilities and hours as the charity continues to grow. Funding for the post has been secured for two years.
work with the Programme Director to build and sustain relationships with funders, schools, community organisations, and local charities
manage programme finances and maintain financial records
prepare monthly programme activity and cash flow reports for the Programme Director and the Board
process monthly payroll
act as primary point of contact for legal, financial, and regulatory (OSCR) matters
ensure organisational policies adhere to UK legislation and best practice standards
work with our Strategy and Marketing Consultant on brand development and marketing matters
office management duties
two or more years of experience working in operations management
excellent communication and interpersonal skills
experience drafting financial and budget documents
working understanding of Sage and Microsoft Office
able to effectively manage time and workload in a dynamic environment
experience building and sustaining relationships with funders
a passion for learning (desirable)
an understanding of and interest in equality and access issues in education (desirable)
Salary: £28,000.00 (pro rata)
If interested, please e-mail your CV and covering letter to our Programme Coordinator, Jillian Read, at: email@example.com. The closing date for this application is 25 September 2017. Interviews will take place during the first week of October.
Are you passionate about working with young people, interested in access and equality issues in education, and excited about the potential of learning to change lives? If so, Light Up Learning is looking for a new Mentor to join our growing team!
Reporting to the Programme Director, the successful candidate will be tasked with mentoring five students at Lasswade High School. They will facilitate student learning by developing activities based around individual student interests and by guiding students as they take charge of their own learning experiences through self-directed projects. Successful candidates will also be expected to do some minor administrative tasks.
This is a part-time contract position (8 hours) with funding secured for two years.
To get a little insight into what our mentors get up to in their sessions and how our students feel about working with us, read our last blog post, "Mentor Magic."
mentor five students
liaise with school staff, parents, and community members, as needed
partake in monthly meetings with the Mentoring Team
partake in bi-annual parent evenings at Lasswade High School
contribute content for the organization’s social media channels
a passion for learning
an understanding of and interest in equality and access issues in education
excellent communication and interpersonal skills
able to effectively manage time and workload in a dynamic environment
able to work both independently and in a team
working knowledge of Google Drive and Microsoft Office
educated to a degree level or equivalent experience
experience working with young people (desirable)
Job Type: Part-time (8 hours)
If interested, please e-mail your CV and covering letter to our Programme Coordinator, Jillian Read, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The closing date for this position is 20 August 2017. Interviews will take place during the last week of August.
Richard McLauchlan is a busy guy. When he is not attempting to learn Ancient Greek for fun
or explaining to me (a very confused and ill-informed Canadian) that one does not simply blow into a bagpipe to make that special sound that we all know and love, he is the co-founder of Light Up Learning, one of the charity's trustees, and a mentor to five students at Lasswade High School.
These five students, as well as the other young people Richard has worked with throughout Light Up Learning's partnership with Lasswade, have taught him about everything from American football to ligers.
Here’s what Aspen, an S5 student who once showed I-like-to-read-Ancient-Greek-for-fun Richard the world of anime, had to say about her most recent sessions with him:
“During my Light Up Learning sessions with Richard, I have spent a lot of time researching Psychology. I have found this very useful and interesting, as I have been thinking of studying Psychology at university.
Richard and I used these sessions to watch videos on YouTube called "Crash Course: Psychology," which contained almost everything to know about the topic and conveyed it in an fun and upbeat way, making it easy to get immersed in it. We even got in touch with a psychologist through email. She explained her route to becoming a psychologist and told us about the work that she does.
By doing this, I have discovered many things that I didn't know before, which has further developed my interest in Psychology. I find the Light Up Learning sessions fun. They help me get a break from the seriousness of school and let me research the things that interest me in a less stressful environment.”
Thomas, another S5 student who is so well-versed in the world of UFC and so well-spoken in his assertion of its merits that he easily convinced me (a very confused and ill-informed Canadian) that Conor McGregor is someone worth knowing about, had this to say about his Light Up Learning sessions with Richard:
“Light Up Learning has been my gateway to find out the best way I can learn. Before LuL, I found it difficult to focus on standard subjects. They had no significant link to what I planned on doing after leaving school. However, my weekly sessions with Richard have allowed me to have an underlying background in the subject I intend to excel in. This is something school has not offered me.
Richard has showed me new ways I can learn both by myself and in a classroom environment, which has been massively beneficial. LuL has also taught me more about myself than I think any classroom ever could and has given me the confidence to reach for my aspirations instead of settling for mediocrity. Every time I begin a new piece of work in my LuL sessions, I look to improve from my last piece.
It has also been incredibly motivating to have Richard genuinely believe I can do well in further education; in turn, this has inspired me to prove him right and not let him down. Light Up Learning has been the best thing Lasswade High School has enrolled me in.”
Thank you to Richard for doing a good enough job at mentoring these wonderful students that I didn’t have to make up nice things to say about him for this profile. And thank you to Thomas and Aspen, whose words have been edited and condensed for the purposes of length and clarity.