Neasden school mentoring scheme scores top marks

Crest Boys Academy blazes a trail

It is a blazing hot Saturday morning, but instead of joining the crowds in Brent’s packed parks a dozen boys are sitting in a classroom at Crest Academy staring fixedly on their teacher Nadeem Suleman who is explaining algebraic graphs.

They are taking part in the final session of a two month long tutoring scheme in maths and English called the One Degree Programme. The project brings mentors from the professional world into the school to offer teaching and guidance to GCSE students who without the help are predicted Ds and Cs in their exams.

Keith Miller, headteacher at Crest Boys Academy, said: “A lot of the lads haven’t got places to study or maybe come from families where education in their home countries is different.

“Brent is a complete melting pot and our mentors genuinely want to give something back and so instead of putting money into a fund, they are actually doing something.”

The project’s aims are epitomised by its slogan, ‘One degree of change today, One lifetime of possibilities’, and is based on the belief that some hard work today can open up doors later on which these children may never have anticipated.

This year, 54 mentors are on the books, including bankers, civil servants and lawyers, and each has to commit to at least three day long sessions. A sizeable core has taken part every weekend over the past two months.

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Leading names from some of the UK’s biggest companies have visited the school to speak about their experiences in business, including Tim Campbell, the winner of the hit TV show The Apprentice, and Tidjame Thiam, the CEO of Prudential.

The goal of these discussions is not just to inform, but to inspire.

Animula Hoque, 16, said: “The mentors are more than just a teacher to us. They get to know us.

“I haven’t just learnt about maths and English, I have learnt abut lots of different experiences and other peoples’ life stories. Sometimes I think I have it hard, but when I hear about other peoples’ stories, I realise I am not the only one.”

The school in Crest Road, Neasden, has a diverse intake and 85 per cent of children have English as an additional language.

Just 22 per cent of students who took part in the scheme last year were predicted five A* to C grades including English and maths. This number achieving this ‘Gold standard’ in their exams rocketed to 72 per cent.

Mr Miller is careful not to put this entire increase down to the project alone, but the statistical jump is impressive. The scheme has now been rolled out to include the neighbouring Crest girls’ school.

One Degree was the brainchild of Adnan Jaffery, a banker turned community worker.

He sadly died of cancer earlier this year, and his family, friends and former colleagues have continued his legacy by making a success of the One Degree Programme.

Among them is Masnain Syde, Mr Jaffery’s cousin who has taken over as operations manager at One Degree.

He said: “It has been a huge responsibility bit also an honour to continue his legacy.

He said: “It is about giving these children the confidence. We allow them to pick up life skills and to develop a moral compass.

“We have brought in different types of speakers from all walks of life to share their stories and give them an insight into work. It gives them more opportunities and we have made it clear to them that having a good education is crucial to their future. It is about opening doors.”