The independent London newspaper

Key figures cut out of the difficult lives of the young

18 May, 2018

Camden’s education chief, Angela Mason

GOVERNMENT cuts to education budgets have already unsettled schools in Camden.

Children in recent months have been sent home with letters for parents, pleading for help funding courses and other extracurricular activities.

Now positions are being axed.

The “learning mentor” is a relatively new concept in education. But this does not make them expendable.

Often, they are the ones who spend time helping children who are under-achieving. They pay particular attention to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Some pupils may have learning difficulties, or behave dysfunctionally. Mentors liaise with parents and teachers – these are the kind of bridges that are often irreparable once torn down.

The role can also be invaluable for the young teacher, who wants to better understand the education system at the start of their career.

The “learning mentor” is a kind of buzz-phrase of modern-day aspiration politics. But it is clear that the relation­ships these mentors form with children run much deeper than that mantra might suggest.

They are the kind of teacher that young minds will look back on, in later life, and actually remember.

And in a way there is no doubt that an increase in numbers in primary schools would help row back against the violence perpetrated by teenagers at secondary school level.

A more blunt approach to the problem is the “knife bin”. Not a solution, but introducing them would not hurt to help reduce the number of knives on the streets.

Last year, more than 100 knives were deposited in a single bin in Westminster.

Like having a library prominently stationed in a community, their mere presence could help to sow a seed in young people’s minds.

Harry’s legacy

WHAT would Harry Hallowes want to happen to the land he lived on for almost 30 years?

The 7,000 square feet of wilderness is at the far north-west fringe of Hampstead Heath. Of the thousands who walk through the park each weekend, few will have come across it.

Harry bequeathed his land to Shelter and the homelessness charity is now seeking to raise as much as it can from it.

The sale of the land, which cannot be built on, has naturally interested community groups and also the City of London, which manages the park.

Perhaps a herb garden could be cultivated there. Or a small, lease-able hut for nature writers to work from. Harry loved apples. Why not plant an orchard? Harry Hallowes Cider could be fermented there each year – with profits funding homeless projects. Watch this space!

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