Mentoring with a twist: the Teens and Toddlers story

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Ever thought it might work to pair a teenager who is finding it hard to do well at school as a mentor to a toddler in a nursery? This is the model developed and pioneered by award-winning charity Teens and Toddlers; a long-standing Impetus-PEF charity partner.

Placing this counter-intuitive mentoring model at the heart of a highly structured programme for 13-16 year olds who are disengaged from school, Teens and Toddlers has been a partner of Impetus-PEF since 2009.

What interested me the most in Teens and Toddlers from the outset was their highly distinctive approach to transforming the lives of young people; they were turning mentoring on its head, with compelling results.” Amelia Sussman, Impetus-PEF’s Investment Director has worked closely with Teens and Toddlers since its initial investment seven years ago.

Transformation for two

The Teens and Toddlers programme has seen thousands of young people through its doors including teenagers contending with low self-esteem at school and young people in care. Secondary students involved in the programme are given the responsibility of mentoring young children in nurseries, one afternoon a week, as part of an accredited curriculum that helps them develop their interpersonal skills and improve their engagement with their education.

Emily, 16 from Lancashire, has benefitted enormously from this unique programme. She was referred to Teens and Toddlers when her teachers noticed she had low confidence and was becoming withdrawn in class. Unable to engage in her education, her school worried that Emily was not reaching her potential.

Emily was paired as a mentor to a three-year-old boy in need of help with his communication skills at a nursery with a high proportion of children speaking English as a second language. Initially, Emily wouldn’t say much in the group and often only gave one-word answers.

The little boy Emily mentored was also shy and not very confident and Emily took some time to begin to form a friendship with him. With support from the Teens and Toddlers team, Emily slowly became more vocal with her toddler, giving him the encouragement and support he needed with his speaking skills.

Samantha Marcus, a senior member of the team at the Teens and Toddlers programme in Manchester, was pleased with Emily’s progress.

It was wonderful to see Emily become more vocal and keen to share her reflections on what she had taught her young mentee.

She became more confident with sharing her thoughts on her progress, her experience as a mentor and how the life skills work she was doing made her feel more mature and responsible. I would often see her showing her toddler new things, helping him practice his speaking skills and learning new words until he understood what they meant.”

Emily celebrated her GCSE exam results in August last year. Having gained at least a ‘C’ grade in nine subjects Emily is now at college studying a vocational course.

I was with Emily on GCSE results day when she opened the envelope. By the look on her face I knew that she had achieved what she set out to do. It was an emotional time for her and I was happy to have been a part of her journey”, Sam said.

A fresh approach

With over £1.5m of financial and hands-on capacity building support from Impetus-PEF during that time, Teens and Toddlers have successfully weathered a period of local authority cuts, strengthened their delivery, governance and performance management capabilities and gone on to be one of only a handful of charities to win and successfully deliver two social impact bonds (SIBs) set up by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The new partnership with Impetus-PEF announced this week that includes a package of support including £100k of funding, is an opportunity to review the programme through the Impetus-PEF Driving Impact lens and develop the strategy for the next three years.

Impetus-PEF’s enduring support over these seven years has been an immense help to us, enabling us to build a stronger body of evidence for our programme and get ready to deliver at a greater scale” Joanne Hay, CEO of Teens and Toddlers said. “The next step of our partnership with Impetus-PEF is an exciting one for all of us. It will help us enhance what we’ve learned from the past few years to refine our approach and truly focus on long-term outcomes for the teens on our programmes.”

Amelia Sussman comments, “In the past few years we’ve seen the Teens and Toddlers team embrace strong performance management systems enabling them to now track every young person that goes through their programmes. They are a high potential charity, with a distinctive programme and a thoughtful and ambitious leadership team. We’re delighted to be working with them again this year to build on their experience and ensure meaningful and lasting change for the young people they help.”

Lizzie Pring is the Head of Communications at Impetus.

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