Four years ago, St Mary's Calne started a Mentoring Scheme involving the Sixth Form pupils and The Springfields Academy in Calne. Springfields currently caters for 105 children aged 7 – 16, mostly boys, with approximately 50% mix of day pupils and boarders. Its focus is to provide life-transforming education and care for vulnerable young people with complex social and learning difficulties.

Mentoring began with approximately 10 volunteers working with nine to thirteen-year-old Springfields' students each Wednesday evening. The Sixth Form had supper with the pupils and then planned games and activities with the group of about eight children. A number of times a term the girls organised events at St Mary’s, such as a drama games evening, BBQs, cricket, lacrosse, art and craft activities and themed Halloween and Christmas parties.

In January this year, Springfields asked if any of the St Mary’s LVI Form might be able to help with a Maths GCSE class once a week. The response from the LVI girls was amazing, with 26 girls committing not only to help with Maths, but running an evening homework club, helping in primary and other GCSE classes.

LV girl, Maggie: This term, six LV pupils began working in a boarding house once a week on a Wednesday evening. Kevin Derby, the Springfields' Housemaster, visited Gibbins last week and spoke movingly of the challenges his students face. His lecture helped the girls to reflect about the difference between the two schools and the lives we lead. We all have so much to gain from this long-term programme. For the Springfields students, it can be a challenge for them to meet new people and to learn to build friendship and trust.

For LV girls, we meet students who face challenges in day-to-day life in a world where communication is often baffling and where life can be difficult. We will continue to visit this wonderful school that constantly inspires and excites us. We are learning to look at the world through different, more compassionate eyes and see clearly how much we have to be thankful for.  

Lexi (LVI) and Maggie (LV) gave the rest of the school an insight into their work at Springfields Academy in a presentation which was given in Chapel recently:

Lexi (LVI): "For the past two terms a number of the LV have been going weekly to Springfields to help in several classes. 

The main classroom block opened last year and contains mostly primary classrooms downstairs and senior classrooms upstairs. As well as classrooms, this building also contains libraries. These are a really important area of school, as many students struggle with reading, so the school has worked hard to create a positive area where the children can learn and choose books to read. Throughout the building, Springfields have tried to keep each of the classrooms as similar as possible. This is because the students don’t always respond well to change and so it helps to lower anxiety. Something that appears in every classroom, is what is called a check-in system. Because they can sometimes find work or change stressful, the students find it difficult to articulate how they are feeling, so this system helps the pupils to communicate quickly with the staff, particularly if they are feeling anxious.

I started off going into a Maths class of Year 10 students to help with Maths in preparation for their GCSEs next year. There were four of us that worked in the class of four boys and 1 girl and we helped them if they got stuck and were there to support them and help the teachers to encourage them to do their work. I was surprised at how well the students responded to us being in the classroom with us and at their willingness to learn and improve.

Having worked in the Maths class for about half a term, I switched to a Primary class of boys aged around nine or ten. Personally, I have enjoyed this experience much more, as the work that we do with the boys is much more varied and changes from week to week. I think one of the main things I noticed about the lessons at Springfields was that they need to be very structured. Because of their needs, the children need a clear routine, so there are timetables up in the classrooms showing the structure for the lesson to ensure that everyone knows what is happening when. When I'm in the class I spend my time helping the boys and making sure that they are focusing on their work, rather than each other and helping the teacher to make the lessons run as smoothly as possible.

Overall, Springfields has been a really valuable experience for me and I feel I have gained a new perspective on how to help and talk to children with ADHD and autism. I have loved helping the students both in primary and the senior part of the school, although the primary children don’t always remember my name.

I would thoroughly recommend volunteering at The Springfields Academy to other girls at St Mary's Calne who are considering this."