Birches Head Academy


Stoke North’s new M.P. Jonathan Gullis returned to school to learn face to face about the new peer mentoring scheme at Birches Head Academy.

Working as a secondary school teacher of R.E, History and Politics at Ashlawn School Academy Trust in Birmingham right up to election day last December Jonathan was enthused by what he saw.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea and a win win for both the older kids who accept the responsibility of mentoring the younger children and for the younger pupils who gain a friend and confidante.”

“As a former teacher, I am the first to admit that children don’t always listen to what adults have to say, and that those who are nearer their own age can have more influence, and can help them grow in confidence and enjoy all that school has to offer,” said the 29-year-old Conservative.

The Franklin Scholars scheme sees especially selected older children lead supervised group and one to one sessions with newcomers to secondary school

Birches Head Senior Subject Leader for R.E. Rebecca Conn-Pearson, who introduced and manages the Franklin Scholars scheme, said: “The mentors had to go through quite a long selection process, assessing their personal skills and approach, and were interviewed both by us and the team from the Franklin Scholars programme.

“We have a multi-skilled team of mentors who given this important extra responsibility are all developing as young adults. Some are natural leaders, some good administrators, some good team players, all have their role.”

Ms Conn-Pearson added: “For the younger children, you can see those who might have been a little nervous at first in their new surroundings are growing in confidence with every session.”

The scheme has been popular with younger and older pupils at Birches Head alike. 

Leon, 15, said: “Big school can be a little scary. I remember feeling out of my comfort zone myself and if we can ease those worries and help the younger ones adapt then that can only be a good thing to do.”

Jayden, 11, added: “I feel that someone really cares and I am not that nervous anymore, I feel more confident all the time.”

Birches Head Academy Headteacher Katie Dixon said: “Most really good ideas are quite simple and at the heart of this project is the belief that happy children are more successful.

“A positive, relaxed and confident child with get so much more out of school life than someone who is shy, nervous and afraid to make their mark, and both our young ones and older students are gaining great benefits from the Franklin Scholar programme.

“I’d like to thank Jonathan for coming down and showing the children that their efforts are even attracting the attention of our M.P.”

Jonathan Gullis M.P. with the Franklin Scholars peer mentoring group and their leader Rebecca Conn-Pearson at Birches Head Academy.

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