A comedian has spoken out against cuts to an "powerful" mentoring scheme helping disadvantaged children in Glasgow.

Plans to withdraw funding for MCR Pathways were exposed by The Herald earlier this week, as part of the SNP-Green budget deal at Glasgow City Council. 

Zara Gladman, who went viral with her videos of a Glasgow West End Mum and Scottish news reporter flatmate, has been mentoring since last summer. 

Read more: Glasgow council to cut support for MCR Pathways school mentoring scheme

The 38-year-old said: “If these cuts happen it’s these children ultimately that are going to be impacted, sadly. They are the ones already disadvantaged. It’s not a good situation at all. 

“Most of all I’m just worried for the kids that haven’t found a mentor yet. There’s so many kids in need across Glasgow and Glasgow has areas of multiple deprivation. Some are the most deprived in the whole of Scotland. This was one way for people to tackle that. 

“All of those kids that haven’t found a mentor, the missed opportunity for all these funny, creative, thoughtful kids that are not receiving that opportunity for support that’s been so beneficial to so many other children."

The Herald: Glasgow comedian Zara Gladman is a mentor for the MCR Pathways schemeGlasgow comedian Zara Gladman is a mentor for the MCR Pathways scheme (Image: Neil Jarvie)

Dr Gladman, who is a zoologist and engagement manager at the University of Glasgow, said she initially got involved after running a recruitment session for the scheme – and ended up getting recruited herself. 

She said: "I thought it was really powerful the impact mentoring has. The fact that it's properly backed with research shows it has a tangible impact on kids.

"I think particularly in the state of the world we are in, sometimes you feel helpless and like there is little you can do to make a difference.

"Years and years of Tory government and austerity, things are only getting worse in terms of inequality. But this is something very practical, doing your bit to make things more equal."

Dr Gladman meets with her mentee in weekly sessions she "really looks forward to". 

Read more: Politicians chop away at education programmes... then refuse to talk

The comedian, who is appearing at Glasgow Comedy Festival later this month, said: "He's incredibly funny, with a similar sense of humour. It's a great pairing. 

"What I really love about the programme is the time and care they take to pair you with a child who has similar interests. That makes a big difference.

"It's just very rewarding. I have such a great time hanging out with him and if I can help encourage him he's got such potential, he's so smart. 

"It's a privilege to be able to try and give him a nudge in the right direction and help grow that enthusiasm."

Dr Gladman said she was "disappointed" to hear Glasgow council's plans to withdraw funding for school-based coordinators, a vital part of the programme who facilitate the relationship between the mentor and mentee. 

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She said: "If they cut that element of the programme it's going to make it much harder for everyone. It will be a much more daunting and risky process, particularly in the early stages. 

"They are the ones driving it, keeping an eye out and dealing with any hiccups. So you are taking away that safety net."

She said she doesn't envy the position of Glasgow council, which is having to make savings due to a £107m budget gap over the next three years. 

Dr Gladman said: "This is one programme where it's impacting a really disadvantaged community. It's demonstrably impactful, it's proven to have a positive impact. It feels like there's a strong cause for them to maybe reconsider if this is a priority.

"All I can speak to is how positive and worthwhile and amazing this programme is, and if there's any way they can have another think. I don't know if they are aware of how important this programme is. Do they realise who's going to be affected?

"Inevitably when there's cuts it's the most vulnerable people bearing the brunt of it."

Read more: Glasgow to lose youth work programme and 11 jobs due to cuts

MCR Pathways currently supports 2,000 young people each week in Glasgow, matching them with 1,200 volunteer mentors. 

Founded in 2007, the scheme has been found to have significantly improve 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, independent research found. 

Founder Dr Iain MacRitchie told The Herald the cuts would have a "devastating" impact on the education outcomes, job choices, and life chances of disadvantaged young people the scheme supports.

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said: “A review of our MCR mentoring co-ordinators is underway following the council budget last month.

“Several options are being explored and at this time no decision has been taken to stop the programme.

“A cross party, political oversight group has been established and we will keep staff and the relevant trade unions informed and updated of developments.

“We understand that this will cause a degree of uncertainty but with council savings of £108million over the next three years it is significantly more challenging to protect education expenditure.”