The problem

Although the UK is a wealthy country, some of its people are among the poorest in the developing world.

Children who live in poverty here are affected by many other limitations, often lacking what they need to reach their full potential such as:

  • opportunities for social and emotional development
  • effective and constructive feedback
  • support from reliable role models
  • knowledge of different career paths and how to achieve their goals

The solution

As role models, mentors and tutors, volunteer mentors at City Year support pupils from disadvantaged communities to enjoy and succeed at school.

Throughout their City Year, they have the opportunity to develop as leaders, with the passion, values, experience and skills to go on to lead transformational change in their communities in years to come.
These young people have extraordinary ambition to improve the lives of children, a willingness to stand up as a role model, the desire to keep learning themselves and the determination and resilience to see the year through.

City Year’s vision is of a society where all children are inspired to believe in themselves and are supported to excel by a generation of young people whose commitment to a year of voluntary service is universally respected.

The City Year mission is to empower young role models to help children from disadvantaged communities succeed in school by:

  • Bringing together the public, private and voluntary sectors.
  • Giving volunteers the training and personal development they need to become empowered and effective leaders.
  • Demonstrating the power of individual action to drive collective impact.
  • Creating an opportunity for service to become integral in society as a catalyst to transform lives.

“City Year select a group of diverse young people and train them intensively to give one-to-one, tailored support to at-risk pupils in UK schools that need us the most.”

City Year select a group of diverse young people and train them intensively to give one-to-one, tailored support to at-risk pupils in UK schools that need us the most.

Those pupils often face emotional and social challenges, and they help them to develop the skills they need to face these challenges head-on.

According to City Year, pupils who are at most risk of not fulfilling their potential at school typically exhibit:

  • poor attendance
  • disruptive behaviour
  • low curriculum performance in English and maths

City Year is helping schools support pupils who show one or more of these three early-warning signs from when they start in reception through to when they sit their GCSEs.

Their volunteer mentors become an integral part of each of our partner schools, helping to make it an enjoyable place to learn. They support pupils by:

  • giving one-to-one or small-group tutoring
  • running breakfast, lunchtime and after-school clubs
  • leading energetic morning greetings for the whole school to create a more encouraging learning environment
  • coaching regularly late or absent pupils
  • sending positive communications home to advise parents and family on the positive progress their children are making
  • organising and leading events, celebrations and projects to bring the school and community together as a whole.

The Big Changers

Sophie Fanning-Tichborne

Sophie has worked in the third sector for over 10 years, gaining experience across membership and conference departments, before moving into fundraising six years ago. She has worked within a political and social welfare context, and more recently focused on youth education charities to deliver targeted programmes in schools. Specialising in trusts, foundations and statutory income over the past few years has given her substantial experience of working with major trusts and grant-making organisations.

She has managed small teams to maximise funding from these streams and to develop strategic projects and proposals. Sophie has been a school governor in Tower Hamlets since 2009, sitting on curriculum and resources committees. She also regularly attends a community project in a local care home socialising with elderly residents at cocktail parties.


The impact of City Year volunteer mentors make in schools has proved:

  • 10% Faster progress made by targeted pupils in maths
  • 2/3rds reduction in negative behaviour
  • Walking bus reduced arrivals by 86%

The impact the experience has on the volunteer mentors themselves includes:

  • 92% in full time education or employment within three months of completing their city year
  • 91% reported that city year influenced their choice of career
  • 95% said the experience helped prepare them for work

95% said the experience helped prepare them for work