A FORMER Skinners pupil who co-founded a charitable enterprise to mentor GCSE pupils from less privileged backgrounds has spoken of his ambitions to grow the project.
The brainchild of 21-year-old school friends Tom West and Sam Carter, Cornerstone Tuition achieved remarkable success in its first year using its format of encouraging sixth formers from the grammar to coach pupils at Skinners’ Kent Academy who are on free school meals.
It is a formula that worked wonders said Mr West: “Since we founded the project just over a year ago the number of sixth formers from Skinners and Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar signing up has gone from 10 to more than 20.
“Originally it was just tutoring in maths and English, but now we offer science too. For those who we tutored last year over half got an A-C grade at GCSE when they were not predicted one. It is really encouraging and the Academy was happy to have us back.”
But it is not just Tunbridge Wells that is benefitting as Mr West has taken an adapted version of his formula to Exeter where he is currently at university.
Still operating under the same brand, Cornerstone has now encouraged students of the university to help out at a local all-boys school that focuses on students with learning difficulties.
Mr West said the new scheme, which he describes as more akin to mentoring than tutoring, has been so successful he is oversubscribed with applicants wanting to volunteer.
“I have had about 80 sign up but only needed ten. We work with the boys for around three afternoons a week and it is very rewarding.
“Unlike in Tunbridge Wells we are doing a larger age range as we start with pupils in year 8.”
As he approaches the end of his time in Exeter, Mr West said he hopes to expand the university model further and is looking into approaching establishments in Kent and Sussex when he moves back.
Overseeing the growth of the charity, while juggling full time education, is not without its challenges for both himself and Mr Carter, who is based in Edinburgh at St Andrews and due to set up his own programme.
“We have been learning it all as we go along, but have been helped out by getting advice from other charities and businesses. Most of our money comes from small piecemeal grants that we apply for.”
Although he is keen to expand, he still believes the charity will be too small. For him to take a paid position within it for ‘at least two years’, but he is happy to take on the change of balancing it with a full time job.
Luckily, the model appears to be self-sustaining and needs little direct oversight from the top once up and running as the volunteers on the ground have proven adept managing it themselves.
To help facilitate the mentoring model, Cornerstone has just launched a training programme to assist its volunteers.