An Hour a Week…


By Anne Marie Hillan

If you are anything like me, then every January a bit of you thinks – what would I like to achieve this year? What could I do differently? Maybe even, what could I do that would make a difference to someone else? In 2023 I actually acted on my new year’s thoughts and became a volunteer mentor with MCR Pathways to a 14-year-old in a Glasgow school. My hour mentoring my young person is now one of the highlights of my week! 

If you have never heard of MCR Pathways their aim is simple. It is: ‘To help young people unlock their potential, no matter their circumstances. The vision is for all young people to experience equality of education outcomes, career opportunities and life chances.

In simple terms the idea is that care experienced and vulnerable young people from 3rd year of secondary school onwards are matched with a volunteer mentor who gives one hour a week during school term time to get to know the young person and to chat, encourage and mentor them. It’s not a compulsory scheme for the young people. Like the mentor they too volunteer – they choose to be mentored. 

What Do I Need?

The first thing to know about MCR Pathways mentoring is that you do not need any formal qualifications to be a mentor and you don’t need to have had children of your own. You do need to be 21 or over, but there is no upper age limit. MCR tell me that the only requirement is that you care. Mentors come from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds. There are mentors who have been head teachers. Equally there are mentors who have never worked with or dealt much with young people at all. There are now 1071 mentoring relationships in Glasgow City Council Schools. Every one a unique pairing of young person and mentor.

The idea is to help young people to stay on and achieve their potential at school and to leave school with a positive destination (i.e. leaving school to go into a job, an apprenticeship, or further education or training) and it totally works. 

A study done in 2020 of care experienced young people showed that 70.7% of mentored pupils continued their education to 5th year compared with 60.1% of their non mentored peers. 

And 81.6% of mentored pupils went on to a positive destination compared with 56.3% of non-mentored peers. How amazing is that? Just one hour a week and it makes such a difference.

What Does it Involve?

So, what does it involve? When you express an interest in MCR you attend an online information session first, then if you decide to register your interest there is a one-to-one question and answer session to find out all about you so you can be matched to a young person with whom you have something in common. You also indicate which schools you are able to attend for mentoring.  

Obviously MCR also run background checks. This is to make sure that mentors have nothing in their history that would make them unsuitable. After that there is a three hour training session which tells you all you need to know about the support given to both mentees and mentors. The session gives you information about safeguarding and child protection and basically explains the whole process – and then you wait to be matched!

I have been meeting my young person since March 2023. I meet her for an hour a week – always at school. There is no contact other than that hour at school. We chat away about how her week has gone; about subjects she likes and the ones she doesn’t! We talk about anything and everything she wants to talk about. 

I was matched with her because of her career interest in Law – I studied law and then worked in private practice and in the public sector for 35 years before my retirement. But we don’t talk about school and careers all the time. We just chat. I am a retired, in my 50s, brand new mentor and I love it.

Mentors and Mentees

For this article I spoke to Rory a 27-year-old-man who also mentors a Glasgow young person. I thought it would be interesting to talk to a mentor much younger than me. Rory worked in the retail sector after school and so was not involved through work with young people. But he has now been a mentor for 15 months. He was matched to his young person because they both have a massive interest in football. Rory told me that his first few sessions involved playing football outside with his mentee. 

Now Rory works with MCR Pathways as well as mentoring with them and feels the experience of mentoring has been really beneficial for him as well as the young person. His employer gives him the time to volunteer as part of his paid work. He finds it very grounding and explains it helps him keep everything else in his life in perspective. There are many companies and organisations now that work in partnership with MCR to provide paid time for employees to volunteer as mentors. 

Research shows that this type of employer supported volunteering is great for the personal development of the mentor and is good for morale and wellbeing in the workplace as well as being so good for the young person.

All the young people’s details and experiences are confidential, but Rory was able to provide me with quotes from young people in Scotland confirming what having a mentor has done for them: 

5th year at Holyrood Secondary, Glasgow

‘It’s what kept me on in school, and majorly improved my confidence. If I didn’t have my mentor, I would not have stayed on at school and don’t know where I would be.’

4th year at Liberton High School, Edinburgh
‘Before having my mentor I had every intention of leaving school as soon as I could. My mentor is the first person that’s made me feel smart and that I could go to college. I’ve always been told and believed I’m “the bad girl”. My mentor changed that and made me believe in myself.’

Rory now works in the partnership team of MCR giving talks and presentations to workplaces to attract mentors. In both his work and his mentoring, he feels what he does makes a difference. He is at the start of a new career and I have just retired from a long one and am nearly 30 years older than him – yet we have both been paired with Glasgow young people and hopefully making a difference. 

Taking an Interest in our Young People

One of the things many of the young people say is that their mentor is the first person in their life who has taken a consistent interest in them without being paid for it. Mentors, no matter their work background, are not teachers or social workers or counsellors. The mentors are just adults who turn up every week to take an interest because they care and want to make a difference. It’s honestly one of the best things I have ever done.

So, if you are thinking of doing something different this year, if you want to make a difference in a young person’s life then contact MCR Pathways. They are in every school in Glasgow and in many Scottish local authorities and they are always looking for more mentors. 

My mentee and I are encouraging each other to learn a language. She is doing French at school, and I am now learning Italian. We use the Duo-lingo app and share our progress every week. If all goes well, I will see my young person through all of 3rd, 4th and 5th year. At the moment, she hopes to go to college or university when she leaves school and I will do everything I can to encourage and support her. And with her encouragement I might learn a decent bit of Italian too!

MCR have an amazing website if you want to find out more:
And you can register your interest to become a mentor at:
If you are an employer and are interested in a mentoring partnership then contact MCR by email at:, or

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