Spotlight On: St Paul’s Colet Mentoring App
Stuart Block, director of partnerships at St Paul’s School, explains how its unique peer learning app, Colet Mentoring, is helping students across the country stay on top of their studies during lockdown.
In January, we launched Colet Mentoring, a first-of-its-kind peer learning app that allows students to learn from and support one another. Through Colet Mentoring, students are learning safely from each other right from their smartphones. This is something we’ve pioneered in partnership with London-based EdTech start-up EasyA, founded by two of our alumni, Phil and Dom Kwok. The app allows students to snap a photo of their question and get instant STEM help from a peer mentor.
Students learn via a combination of messages, pictures and a virtual whiteboard with the lightweight, low-data format making the help accessible to most students - including those who have limited internet connections that don’t permit video sessions. The app is completely free for all students involved, and we hope that this innovative platform will allow other schools and partnership groups to use it to facilitate highly scalable, 1:1 mentoring to help students catch up and get ahead this lockdown and beyond.
Before the launch we ran over 700 pilot sessions, starting last summer within the West London Partnership, a group of nine independent and state schools in our area of London that we helped to create. Feedback from our pilots was really promising. Dubravka Todorinovic, head of maths at Christ’s School in Richmond, found that many of her students "completed overdue tasks they felt less motivated to do during the school closures," with one mentee suggesting that "students are often easier to ask and answer questions than teachers".
Year 12 and 13 students from any school who have achieved top grades in their subject at GCSE can take on the role of a mentor, supporting younger mentee students. Whilst we have been focusing on Year 10 and Year 11, we’ve also been exploring it with younger years, including Year 5 and 6 pupils at primary schools. Mentees connect with mentors in under 60 seconds on average during homework hours (currently 4.30-6.30pm, five days a week). Safeguarding is paramount and we have a three-layer approach using AI, mentor training and feedback as well as staff supervision.
More recently, other ISC schools, notably Radley College, have adopted it alongside their partner schools with great success. As my equivalent at Radley, John Sparks, emphasises: "The ease of use and scalability of the Colet Mentoring platform allows students – both mentors and mentees – to quickly engage in a purposeful manner… Students have benefited enormously from being part of the programme; mentees have had access to regular individual online support, while mentors have gained confidence, self-esteem and greater empathy through their tutoring."
We’re delighted that since then, as well as expanding across all parts of London with the support of The Mercers' Company, many schools across the country from Kent (Sevenoaks) to Newcastle (RGS Newcastle) have started to run programmes, and we’ve also had interest from schools as far afield as Malaysia. We have just run our 1000th session and are looking forward to scaling up further during the remainder of this year and beyond.
As Alun Ebenezer, headteacher at Fulham Boys School, also in our West London Partnership, says: "COVID has created obvious gaps, particularly with some of our socially and economically disadvantaged pupils. Using technology and collaboration with other schools, such as in the West London Partnership, is going to be vital to help fill that gap." Let’s hope that this app, and many other innovations within our educational space over the last year, will help.
To find out more, take a look at this short video made by some of the mentees involved.
Colet Mentoring is actively encouraging all schools across the UK, whether they are looking to provide volunteer mentors or get their students extra support, to join the movement. To learn more, register for one of their weekly info calls or email firstname.lastname@example.org.