We spoke to Emma, a teacher from Kingsmead Primary School, and asked her what impact The Kids Network has on children at school.
What value does The Kids Network bring to your school?
I suppose it’s a way for us to know that some of our most vulnerable children are getting a really fantastic intervention that is sustained over a really decent period of time so a very meaningful relationship can evolve between the child and the mentor. For schools who have large gaps with vulnerable children over holiday periods that’s a really big deal actually to know that some of our most vulnerable children are having very regular contact with a trusted adult who’s making sure that they have really lovely activities and there’s a sort of a space where they can talk about things that they’re finding difficult or and just have a nice time you know playful time during that long holidays. That’s a very big deal for us. But it’s not just about the holidays because the fact that it’s a regular meeting that happens once a week for such a long period of time really makes for profound change possible I think.
What impact have you seen on the children who have already been through the program and have completed it?
I’ve been regularly checking in with the children and their class teachers for the children who have individual The Kids Network mentors and the feedback from the children and the class teachers and the parents – actually lots of parents – is incredibly positive. There’s a few children who are coming to the end of their year long relationship with their mentor and the impact is very evident in the classroom. I know The Kids Network mentors aren’t about academics, that’s not the aim of it, but the results are very often seen in the classroom. Class teachers have commented on some children who’ve had problems regulating their emotions and their behaviour being much more able to be reflective, being able to come back and talk to the class teacher about issues and say where they think they could have done things differently – very much self-initiated which is impressive. Then other children, for example there’s one little boy who had communication difficulties and was under a speech and language therapist and he has been transformed by his relationship with his mentor. He has had a very playful time with him and has really drawn out his interests and supported him in finding out what those are and he now puts his hand up very regularly in class – in fact his car teacher says she has to ask him to stop talking now sometimes! So it’s really had a big impact in different ways on many of the children and general sort of increase in confidence, self-esteem and they’re calmer.
I keep talking about playfulness but I think that that that’s something that’s really missing in a lot of our children’s lives – lots of the children we refer to The Kids Network have very stressed out parents you know their family circumstances are difficult their parents and carers don’t have the time or the resources to do these kind of activities with their children so that’s a big deal.
What is it that makes The Kids Network an impactful program?
So I think there’s a few things obviously – the length is one thing that we’ve talked about already but I think the fact that there’s a budget I think that’s quite significant actually. I know that when we first talked to the children about it some get a bit obsessed about this but actually I think it matters. I think it’s really great for a number of reasons – I think it means that the children really can action their desires and plan for things; I think for some of those children, they are from very poor backgrounds and they just wouldn’t be able to do the activities that they are saving up with their mentor to plan to do and when I speak to them about their experiences some of those things that they save up and pay for like going to the aquarium, going trampolining, going ice skating, going to the cinema and just simple things like you know going to the cafe on a regular basis and having the confidence to order hot chocolate for themselves. That sounds like a really little thing, but for lots of our children when they start they don’t feel it as something they have the right to do which is awful and it’s just to do with them not having had those experiences. So having the confidence to be in the world and asking for what they want and seeking what they’re interested in it’s a really great springboard to go to secondary school.
I suppose there’s a couple of other things as well which is that I think sometimes it seems to me that sometimes the mentoring sessions can indirectly address quite important things like screen time. Lots of our boys in year five and six – parents are tearing their hair out, not really knowing how they can manage hours and hours at home and then in lockdown it was really awful how much time children were spending on screens and obviously very difficult for families to deal with that. But I think you know the fact that mentors are doing things in the real world with the children and showing them what’s out there in the real world is a really good counterpoint and also think addressing things like healthy eating – we’ve had a couple of mentors being able to delicately address that with children who wanted to spend their budget on sweeties every week and you know that that’s allowed for topics to come up which are really important to address but in a kind of indirect subtle way, so yeah, I wanted to say that too.
Also, broadening children’s experiences, you know, really getting them to places they wouldn’t otherwise go – museums, theatres, exhibitions. For lots of our children the only time that happens is through school trips.
If you want to ensure that even more children get the vital support of a volunteer mentor then we’d love your donation – between 14th – 21st June anything you give is DOUBLED. Donate here!