Luke Harding is Evolve’s first National Health Mentor, was named Rookie of the Year during his first year as a Health Mentor, went on to win the Regional Health Mentor award for the impact he has made in schools and has showcased his expertise at Evolve’s national conference. We caught up with Luke to find out what motivates him and how his new role is shaping up.
After a hard but rewarding day as a Health Mentor Luke Harding is able to reflect on the day’s events and think “Today I made a difference.” Although no two days are the same, he is always making a difference to pupils’ lives. Whether that is a breakthrough during mentoring, a PE session, or something as simple and important as making a pupil smile. “Every day I know a difference has been made and a child felt better about themselves. I love my job; it’s unique,” Luke says.
Luke has achieved a lot since he joined Evolve three years ago, after graduating in Sport and Exercise Science, focussing on the levels of physical activity in school PE. “My findings of the low levels shocked me and I decided I wanted to aim my career towards trying to make a difference to this within schools,” he recalls. Luke did some research and found that Evolve could offered him this opportunity.
In his first role in Birmingham schools he shadowed a Senior Health Mentor, completed his training and quickly realised the importance of the mentoring aspect within the Health Mentor role. He was awarded the Rookie of the Year title for his proven impact and the initiatives he implemented, such as his Lads’ and Dads’ Day, which brought parental engagement into the heart of the school.
In his second year with Evolve, Luke won a regional award for the positive impact he had made at The Firs Primary School and he showcased some of his work and findings at Evolve’s national conference. “This focused on the work I did with a child who suffered with mental health issues,” Luke says. “This was the hardest, yet most rewarding time I have had as a Health Mentor and will always stand out as the highlight of my career.
“The 1-2-1 work I did with this child was noted by the mental health services as good enough for them to take a step back. Two years on, this child is now in good health and doing very well in secondary school.”
He was promoted to a regional management position, where he was responsible for maintaining and upskilling Health Mentors , as well as building and maintaining relationships with schools within his area. He went on a teaching course at Warwick University and became a tutor on the very same Health Mentor training programme he had once attended. He also headed Evolve’s National Mentoring team, which was responsible for creating schemes of work for all Health Mentors to use.
A year later he was asked to take up his current role as National Health Mentor Lead. He is the point of call for all current and new Health Mentors who have questions or concerns. His main aim is to impart the excellent knowledge he has as being a highly effective Health Mentor and support them to achieve sustained impact within their own practice.
This also means going back to school five days a week, to practice what he preaches.He is based in the Inclusion Team at Erdington Hall Primary School in Birmingham, the school which actor Martin Shaw attended in the 1950s.
Luke certainly packs a lot into a busy day. He runs a breakfast club to help boost pupil attendance (a strategy that has worked for Luke in the past), before mentoring pupils every morning. This includes classroom support, 1-2-1 sessions, PE intervention and providing EAL support. He runs activities at breaktime, while at lunchtime Year 6 Sports Leaders help him set up games to improve pupils’ confidence and skills, and increase their physical activity levels. In the afternoons Luke delivers PE to Year 1-6 students.
Once a week he takes children to tournaments against other schools. “This is great, as it gives children the opportunity to compete and try out sports they may not have played before,” Luke says.
“I have recently been given the role of PE co-ordinator, responsible for organising sporting events and CPD opportunities for staff. I also have a sports apprentice who shadows me, so it is great to be sharing and passing on my knowledge to others.”
His efforts are appreciated by Erdington Hall School staff:
“Luke has been a super addition to the Inclusion Team. He is clearly here for the children. He is motivated, innovating and extremely hardworking. Nothing is too much trouble for him and he often goes above and beyond for children and staff. Luke has made fabulous relationships with both children and staff, and adds humour to our day.”
Amanda Lees – Assistant Principle for Inclusion (line manager at school)
“Luke has been a fantastic addition to the Erdington family due to his commitment to wanting the best for every pupil. No task is too big or too small for Luke. He understands the importance of providing the best support for the children in his care. Staff constantly comment on his work ethic and positivity. Pupils respond to Luke in a positive way and look up to him as a role model. He is able to work with the more challenging pupils by building a relationship with them and supporting them in focussing and developing their skills.”
David Barker – Deputy Headteacher