An Interview With Our Founder, Temi Kamson

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If you ever wondered about the story behind GT Scholars and how it was founded, then watch this interview with our founder, Temi Kamson.

Temi has a Masters in Civil Engineering from the University of Nottingham and a PGCE in Mathematics Education from the University of Cambridge. Having worked in state and independent schools, she set up the GT Scholars Programme with the goal of helping ambitious young people achieve their full potential, regardless of their socio-economic background. In this video, she also talks about her personal experience with the education system, why scholars enrol in our programme, what scholars will gain from the programme, and what makes our scholars successful.

If you prefer you can read the full interview below:

Why did you start GT Scholars?

I started GT Scholars based on my own personal experience of growing up in South London. I grew up in a single parent home, grew up in council housing and went through the state school system. I remember one of my teachers from primary school, Miss Bickersteth, telling me ‘’Temi, you can be anything you want to be.’’ That statement was so powerful that it stayed with me for the rest of my life, it is still with me today. There were so many times that I wanted to give up but I was really fortunate enough, especially towards the end of my school years to have right opportunities come along at the right time, and that really helped me. It really supported me in those final years when I was thinking about university but not thinking I was good enough. I was really lucky, I went off to university, I studied engineering but later on, I decided to retrain and become a teacher in the hopes that I could give back and make a difference in someone else’s life.

It was while I was teaching, working with young people, that I really wanted to inspire them and raise their aspirations. What I realised while I was teaching was quite profound. Many of the young people that I worked with were already really ambitious. They wanted to do well; they wanted to get good grades at the end of school. But many of them they just didn’t feel confident, they didn’t feel that they had the ability within them. These beliefs were so deeply ingrained that many of them thought that even if they did their very best; the best they would ever be able to achieve was a C-grade. Some of them felt that they did not have the right background and that certain opportunities were only available for the privileged few. After some time, I realised that young people needed more than just good teachers. They needed people to support them in terms of seeing the opportunities available to them and supporting them to make the most of these opportunities.

Why do young people join GT Scholars?

So at the moment in England, only about 1 in 3 young people from low-income homes, are able to leave school with 5 GCSE’s or above and this is, of course, actually quite disheartening.  There are many young people who would love to achieve better grades by the end of school, access top universities get into competitive careers but often what happens is that they genuinely have no idea how to do this. The saddest part is that many of them are so full of self-doubt that they don’t even believe that they are capable of achieving this.

What do young people gain from GT Scholars?

GT Scholars is a not-for-profit social enterprise and registered charity. We run after-school courses, workshops and programmes for young people, particularly young people from low-income homes. Our goal is to give them the support they need so they can achieve their academic and career potential. Scholars on our programme receive academic support through tutoring. They also receive coaching or mentoring from undergraduates, graduates and professionals from top universities and leading organisations. Our scholars also get to take part in enrichment activities such as visits to the city, visits to universities and the aim of that is to help them understand the opportunities that are available to them. We also run skill building days, again, with the aim to help them and support them so they know how to make the most of these opportunities.

What makes your scholars successful?

Over the past few years, we’ve had support from organisations such as Charities Aid Foundation, School For Social Entrepreneurs and The Young Foundation. Our scholars that have been on the program have been able to move an average of 2 grade points in a year and we’ve even had some of our scholars move from a predicted D grade to achieving A-grade within a year of being on the programme. We are really proud of that.  What makes GT Scholars successful is the genuine belief that our tutors and mentors have in our scholars. They invest their time and energy supporting our scholars and building positive relationships with them. This, in turn, helps our scholars believe in themselves and that helps them realise their strengths and ultimately helps them improve their grades and career prospects. I know I wouldn’t be here today if not for the role models that supported me and believed in me when I was growing up. So if there is anything I have learned over the past through years it is that anyone can make a difference. An hour a week may seem so small, but those few hours could have such a positive influence on a young person’s life.

GT Scholars is a not-for-profit social enterprise that provides tutoring, mentoring and enrichment that is designed to help young people aged 11-16 achieve their academic and career aspirations. Contact us if you would like to know more about the GT Scholars Programme and how you can join.

The story behind GT Scholars – More than just a tutoring programme

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Why start another education charity?

Did you know that young people from the lowest income homes (Household income under £16,190) are only 4% likely to gain entry into a Russell Group University when compared to their peers at Independent schools who have a 64% chance of gaining access to a Russell Group University? Date from – Widening Participation in Higher Education 2013

Research from The EEF teacher toolkit shows that one-to-one tutoring can accelerate attainment by up to 5 months in a year and there are a range of charities that run programmes with the aim of improving the grades of young people from low income households and while these programmes are highly effective.

Charities that offer after-school tutoring and mentoring are extremely impactful but are usually funded using a combination a grants, donations and fees charged to schools. This is a common funding model for charities but the challenge with this funding model is that grants and donations aren’t sustainable – they can’t last forever and not all schools can afford the fees for additional after-school programmes.

Due to limited funding, most schools or charities have a strict criteria for providing additional support and they can only provide additional tutoring or mentoring support to priority pupils.

In a typical charity – Limited funding means that support only goes to priority pupils

Priority pupils are usually pupils on FSM (Free School Meals) – that means pupils with a household income under £16,000. In order to qualify for support, you’ll need to go to a school that has an existing partnership with the charity.

In addition to this, there are typically two types of interventions. There are those that work with high attaining pupils that are likely to get into a top university or those that work with D-grade students with the aim of supporting them to achieve a C-grade by the end of school.

The problem with this strict selection criteria is that many parents and young people from low income homes have little awareness of the programmes available to them and have very little control over the decision making process. The decision for young people to get on any programme is usually based on a funding and priority need both schools and charities are forced to make a decision on which child or which group of children will benefit from this most – given our limited funding.

Affordable and accessible tutoring – The story behind GT Scholars

The GT Scholars Programme was founded in November 2013. It was started by Temi Kamson, a former engineer turned Maths teacher. Temi established the programme while working as teacher and noticed that many of the young people and parents that approached her for after-school tutoring were on free school meals or low income homes but didn’t qualify for support. This was either because their grades were too high (eg a C-grade), their household income was too high (eg. a single parent household with an income of £17,000 which is just above the Free School Meals threshold or the school didn’t have the funding to place them on a programme.

We were established with the goal of ensuring that any young person was able to access the support and you didn’t have to go to live in the right neighbourhood, go to the right school, have the right household income and have the right grades in order to qualify for support. The programme has been developed and refined over the past couple of years and recently gained support from NPC-Think (New Philanthropy Capital) who assisted with developing the theory of change.

Since starting the programme, we have gained support from organisations such as the Young Academy’s Accelerator Programme, Bank of America Meryll Lynch and The School for Social Entrepreneurs. GT Scholars was also awarded its first round of social investment through Croydon Council’s SE-Assist programme with Legal & General and Charities Aid Foundation.

What does the programme involve?

We are now open to any pupil in London and run as an after-school tutoring and mentoring programme to run throughout the academic year with 3 terms in the year. In each term, our scholars benefit from 10 hours of one-to-one online tutoring sessions to improve grades and 3 mentoring sessions to help pupils build their confidence and equip young people the strategies they need to succeed.

We also run 1 skill-building day to help young people develop a growth mindset and 1 Enrichment day. Our enrichment days include things like visits to the city, visits to universities and career days where we encourage parents and scholars to gain a deeper understanding of the academic and career opportunities available to them.

This is all done with help from volunteers who support through tutoring, mentoring and one-off volunteer days. Tutoring and mentoring requires a 3-month minimum commitment and volunteer tutors need to be available for 1 hour a week while mentors need to be available for 2 hours a month.

Our tutors are graduates, undergraduates and professionals from a range of fields and we conduct full training and DBS checks on all volunteers that work directly with young people.

How is all of this funded?

We charge means tested fees and this means that the fees from young people from high income homes subsidise the fees for young people from low income homes.

The means-tested model also means that that the majority of our young people that join the programme are from low income homes. As a social enterprise, we use 100% of our surplus to provide free places. At the moment, we are able to provide 1 free place for every 6 paying places. Our goal is to be able to provide 1 free place for every 3 paying places by 2020 and we hope that we can do this with your support.

How can you help?

We’re always looking for undergraduates, graduates and other professionals that are passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people. You can volunteer as a tutor, mentor or simply sign up to one-off volunteer days.

Contact us online if you’d like to know more about The GT Scholars Programme and would like to support us by becoming a volunteer or connecting us to your professional network or corporate volunteer programme.

A Recap of our Careers day 2017: Work experience, Role models and Gamification

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I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone that attended our annual careers day on Saturday 18th March 2017. We had a brilliant turnout and an inspirational panel. I believe that everyone gained something on the day and the feedback from parents and young people showed that it was a learning experience for everyone.

I’ve written this blog entry for anyone who would like a recap of the day or anyone who missed parts of the day. There was so much to gain but here are some of the most important messages that I gained from the day.

  • Get some work experience to help you decide:

    There were quite a few young people that didn’t feel sure of what they wanted to do as a future career and it would be quite hard for any 13 year old to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives and this is very rare. You may need to start by doing a lot of research on the type of careers that you might enjoy, how much money is good enough for you and what type of life you would live if you choose this career. The only way to know for sure is to gain some work experience or do an internship as this will get you as close as possible to the role that you are thinking of. Remember that work experience is just a ‘snapshot’ of the actual role so try to get as much work experience as you can of different roles or even the same role. Observe the people working in the role that you aspire to, ask questions and use this to help you narrow down your choices.                                                                                                                                     

  • Studying doesn’t have to be boring – You can make it fun:

    Exams and studying are two things that are unavoidable in pretty much every profession. Getting good grades in your academic and professional exams will create more possibilities and options for your future. One member of the panel mentioned that she had worked so hard to get into Cambridge only to discover that the studying didn’t end after University, she was expected to do professional exams within her profession. Likewise, another member of the panel, who didn’t go to university, still had to do professional exams to move forward in his current career. Everyone on the panel agreed that when you enjoy what you’re doing, it becomes easier and a lot less stressful. The panel also gave some examples of how to ‘gamify’ your learning and everyone agreed that this was probably the best way to approach your studies – make it fun.                                                                                                                                                               

  • Your talents aren’t limited:

    A huge misconception at school is that only a few people are gifted but this is entirely untrue. Human beings were not designed to fit into a box. We are multi-faceted and multi-talented. This means that you are an engineer and an artist, you can still get to work in IT and run businesses, you can be a teacher and a social entrepreneur, an investment banker and neuroscientist, a project manager that loves sports and is also an author, you can be a lawyer that writes and volunteers, a tech recruiter that has coached a women’s basketball team. You don’t have to do it all at the same time but you already have so many gifts and there are so many possibilities for your future.

     

  • Support from your parents can make a huge difference:

    It was interesting to hear how parents had had such a huge influence on the panel. Most people on the panel felt that their parents were their role models and this shows how much our children pick up from us. I was particularly moved by the member of the panel that explained how he failed his A-levels (more than once) and how this had a negative impact on his confidence, his relationship with his parents, his self-esteem and his motivation in life. It was also interesting to hear how his dad had to change his approach in order to build a better relationship with him. The person that failed his A-levels is now extremely successful for his age but this wouldn’t have happened if his parents hadn’t taken time to rethink their approach and support him in the right way. We all want our children to be happy and successful. Sometimes this means that we have to be the first to change if we want to see a change in them.

  • Never ever give up on yourself

    Tenacity and resilience are essential if you want to succeed. A couple of people on the panel spoke about being rejected for some time or dropping out of university or constantly being compared to their sibling before they finally got their first ‘break’ and everything picked up from there. I mentioned that when I feel like giving up I think of some of the most successful people and how they had to just keep going even after receiving their 100th rejection. Walt Disney was fired from one of his first jobs – he was told that he lacked imagination! JK Rowling spent five years writing Harry Potter books, she earned next to nothing during those years only for her to finish writing and be rejected by over 12 publishers! Tenacity and ‘bounce-back-ability’ are two things that you will need if you want to navigate through any career. Rejections are inevitable but whatever happens in life, whichever path you choose – Never ever ever give up on yourself.

     

  • Add value and the money will follow:

    Most people on the panel agreed that there were so many careers to choose from and it wasn’t necessarily a case of picking one career and then doing this for the rest of your life. What matters most was adding value in anything that you do and constantly thinking – what can I do to make a difference? What can I give? What skills, talents, gifts, strengths have I got? What will I enjoy? There were lots of examples of people on the panel that were working in roles that they hadn’t imagined when they were younger or creating technology that didn’t exist when they were at school. Ultimately, your communication, problem solving, team working, leadership skills and creativity are the most important skills. You may find yourself working in different countries, careers and industries but these are the things that would follow you for the rest of your life.

     

  • There is no point in being a starving artist:

    This wasn’t mentioned on Saturday but I thought it was important to add this as a final note. On Saturday, we had someone ask which jobs can help you make good money and the general response was that it depends on what you see as a good amount of money and also when it comes to your career – ‘It’s not all about the money’. Having said this, you still need to find a balance between how much you want to make and the career you choose. You may find a career that you love but you may have to stop because you aren’t being paid your worth. You may have to make a decision of not earning enough money in the first stage of your career with the goal of earning a lot more in the future eg. a career in music, acting, business, writing, sports or entertainment. The other problem is that some careers are hard to break into and this means that may not earn enough while you pursue your ‘art’ or ‘calling’. So my take on this is to talk to other people in that industry, make sure you get good grades at school as this will give you more options in the future, get a degree or another qualification, get as much experience as possible, be outstanding at what you do, think both short and long term and have a backup career plan. It’s not all about the money but it would be wrong for anyone to tell you to pursue your dreams without being realistic about your earnings.

Once again I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone that joined us at our annual careers day. Don’t forget to subscribe to ‘In the know’ our Friday newsletter for parents, where you can stay up to date on work experience opportunities, summer schemes, top-tier apprenticeships and university scholarships for your child. Also, If you enjoyed reading this post, why not forward it to someone else?

Why run free enrichment events for young people from low income homes?

Why run free enrichment events for young people from low income homes?

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Every so often people will ask us why we run free events. Why put so much effort, time and funding into our events? Why offer free food?! The information we share at our events is truly invaluable. So why not charge parents for these events?!

And my answer is because when I was younger some of the free events that I went to were the events that ended up changing my life. I’m not sure I would have gone to these events if they weren’t free.

I grew up in a single parent household with a mum that worked extremely hard to make sure that my brother and I were relatively comfortable. I never felt that we lacked anything but I definitely wish we’d spent more time together as a family.

One thing I do recall was that I was quite ambitious. I wanted to do well but there was so much self-doubt. I remember being so confused during my A-levels. There wasn’t anyone to talk to about careers or university and even when you did talk about it – the advice wasn’t particularly helpful. I got really overwhelmed the amount of work I had to do and by my second year of A-levels, I had pretty much given up on myself.

A poster changed my life

I remember walking down the hall in my school when I was about 17 and seeing a poster for a residential course for girls interested in Engineering. It was a one-week residential and it was free. I liked the idea of going away for a week and learning about engineering. It was a career that I had considered but didn’t know much about.  So I got the details and convinced my mum to book me on the course.

The one week residential literally changed my life. The course didn’t teach me Maths or English or Science. It gave me courage, confidence and self-belief. The course opened me up to the possibility of what my life could be.

I remember coming back from the one-week residential finally realising that maybe it wasn’t too late for me – I could still do this.  I didn’t have much time left to the exams and I’d hardly done any revision all year but I worked my socks off and managed to get decent A-levels.

I ended up going to the University of Nottingham to study Civil Engineering. I then did a Masters in Engineering and even got sponsored by an engineering company in my final year. It was a brilliant experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

After working as an engineer, I eventually changed careers and did a PGCE in Mathematics Education at the University of Cambridge…but I always wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t noticed that poster on the wall? What would have happened if the poster had said £350? Would I have mentioned it to my mum?

We run our events free of charge and we provide bursaries because we want all young people to be able to have access our events and our year-round programme, regardless of their household income.

Talent exists everywhere – in state schools, independent schools, low income homes and higer income homes. The most important thing to us is that every young person or parent that wants to join the programme or come to one of our events can choose to do so based on their willingness rather than their financial situation.

To find out more about our programmes, visit www.gtscholars.org/our-courses