Glasgow City Council is planning to cut support for a “transformational” pupil mentoring scheme, The Herald can exclusively reveal.

Officials have confirmed plans to withdraw funding for school-based coordinators working on the MCR Pathways scheme as part of the SNP-Green budget deal.

The council says that it is “exploring other options” for delivery of the programme, but its founder insisted that the staff are vital to its success, and warned about the impact of cutting support for the scheme.

Founded in 2007, MCR Pathways provided 1-to-1 mentoring for young people. Independent research had previously found that the scheme had significantly improved retention rates, attainment levels and positive destinations for young people taking part. Pupils also benefitted from improved attendance, increased confidence and greater levels of motivation.

Read more: Mentoring scheme for disadvantaged Scots expands (2016)

MCR Pathways also enjoyed significant support from decision-makers at Glasgow City Council.

The former Director of Education, Maureen McKenna, previously described it as a “ground-breaking initiative” that works “because we have embedded it within our core business and complements the work of our teachers and school staff.”

The council’s current Chief Executive has also expressed her support in the past, stating that the MCR Pathways scheme would “unequivocally improve the life chances” of young people and pledged to “champion this mentoring programme as it is what our young people need, and they deserve our very best, nothing less will do.”

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In response to questions about the proposed cuts to the programme, a spokesperson for Glasgow City Council issued a single-sentence statement: “Unlike other local authorities, the council directly employ MCR Pathways coordinators within our secondary schools, however we are now exploring other options.”

However, the founder of MCR Pathways explicitly rejected this claim. Speaking exclusively to The Herald, Dr Iain MacRitchie said that many other councils employ coordinators directly in schools. This was confirmed by another source with experience of the programme, who told us that it is a fundamental feature of the programme which is important for safeguarding and for maximising the impact of the work being carried out.

Dr MacRitchie went on to warn that cutting coordinators from schools would fatally undermine the project in Glasgow, and that the consequences would be felt for a lifetime by young people across the city:

“This decision cannot have been taken with all the facts given that the MCR programme has been independently researched as transformational for the City’s most disadvantaged young people and been citywide for almost a decade. It is currently supporting 2,000 young people each week as a cost effective and practical implementation of multiple national and citywide education, social work and mental health and wellbeing policies. It provides 1,200 committed, adult volunteer mentors and also brings in their employers for work experiences to fuel aspirations. 700 of these alone delivers in the last 6 months. The programme delivery relies on the Pathways Coordinators in each school to facilitate the programme and also directly support the young people as a valued part of the school teams and local communities.   

"If we remove those ‘one good adult’ relationships from 2,000 of the city’s most disadvantaged young people we will have a devastating impact on their education outcomes, job choices and life chances. And that’s not just for a budget period, it is for a lifetime. 

“As a passionate Glaswegian, I simply cannot believe that the city’s elected politicians or officers will see this decision through and allow a generation of young people to be determined by their circumstances or postcode. The Council is the corporate parent of 40% of the young people and without this effective support could end up having to support the other 60%. The potential social cost of failure is staggering and the MCR programme is a focus on prevention.  I am sure sense will prevail and that the corporate parent responsibilities will drive the decisions.  

“The maths doesn’t work with reducing budgets and increasing needs. It’s time for our politicians to be honest and transparent. Talking prevention isn’t providing sticking plasters. Our limited resources must be used to support those that need it most by those that know them best.  Trust and relationships are the prerequisite to any sustainable impact and success."

Read more: How MCR Pathways helped change a life

Leanne McGuire, chair of the Glasgow City Parents Group, also spoke out against the council’s proposals:

"As a dedicated MCR Pathways mentor for several years, it is disheartening to learn about the potential impact of GCC budget cuts on this invaluable service.

“Having witnessed first-hand the transformative impact of MCR Pathways mentoring in Glasgow schools, I am grateful that the charity is not entirely discontinuing the service.

“Nevertheless, the indispensable role played by MCR Coordinators, who provide invaluable support to mentoring relationships, cannot be overstated.  These coordinators forge strong connections with mentees, becoming trusted adults whom pupils rely on.

“The proposed cuts are threatening to disproportionately affect vulnerable pupils, jeopardising the crucial support they require and deserve. It feels short-sighted to be removing support for pupils in a time when we continually hear of pupils' needs rising."

The SNP and Scottish Greens were approached for comment but did not respond.

The Scottish Government said they would not be commenting.