3. Appointing a learning mentor
Learning mentors will focus on understanding a young person, demonstrating empathy and unconditional positive regard, building the young person’s positive self-image and aspirations and supporting their learning and wellbeing within the educational environment. Learning mentors will also play a key role in checking in with the young person and gently monitoring their wellbeing engagement.
3.1 Selecting a learning mentor
The school leadership team must seek to engage with the young person to identify a learning mentor as soon as possible after the school has been made aware that the student is in youth justice (schools may be alerted to a student’s engagement in youth justice by the Regional team, the student or the parents/carers or the youth justice case manager).
The learning mentor should not be directly involved in the teaching of the student but should ideally be a trusted staff member who:
- has capacity and is willing to take on the role voluntarily, outside of regular classroom commitments
- has the capability of demonstrating warmth, empathy and genuine care for the student, and may already have a connection with the student
- is familiar with the , and in particular the school’s , which identifies strategies for maintaining appropriate professional boundaries
- is the most suited to the individual student (considering experience, gender and existing relationship with the student).
3.2 Key roles and actions
The learning mentor plays a crucial role in supporting young people youth justice, many of whom have experienced childhood trauma and fractured relationships and face complex barriers to engaging in education and with their educators and peers.
The aim of the learning mentor role is to help the student stay connected to their education and to address barriers that may impact their learning. This might include:
- getting to know the young person and taking an interest in their life and learning
- identifying any challenges that they may be facing and developing strategies that could assist in addressing these challenges
- acting as a role model and guide for the young person
- advocating for the young person (for example, ensuring that other teaching staff are made aware of their learning needs, interests, passions, or strengths or struggles)
- meeting with the young person at a regular time and facilitating regular check-ins
- participating in meetings and providing advice about additional supports that they may require
- facilitating the young person’s input into the Individual Education Plan and ensuring that they are able to set their own aspirational education goals
- supporting young people who are in custodial care, and laying foundations for a successful transition (see Chapter 9).
The learning mentor is not responsible for supports that can undermine the learning mentor relationship. In particular they are not responsible for:
- providing counselling
- supervising the young person if they have been removed from the classroom.
3.3 Supports for learning mentors
It is important that learning mentors receive ongoing support from the school’s leadership team. This should include:
- ensuring that an appropriate time and space is made available for the student to meet with their learning mentor
- ensuring that they feel supported and are able to discuss their approach to their role as a learning mentor
- providing formal avenues for professional support to the learning mentor (such as access to a wellbeing coordinator, student support services, employee assistance program).
Reviewed 22 February 2023