Navigating the way through the challenging teenage years does not get any easier for our girls. In fact, several new developments around smart technology, peer pressure, relational aggression and cyber-bullying, poor body image, early sexualisation, mental health and relationship intimacy place exacting demands on our girls around the time when their individuality, uniqueness and aspirations should be up front and centre.
Quite often having someone to talk to and guide them through this frame-breaking time when their identity is taking shape, can make a huge difference and this is the remit of our Big Sister programme.
The Big Sister programme targets the middle girls. The ones who are in danger of becoming invisible as they simply cruise through school trying to find their place. These are the girls who are neither seriously disruptive nor academically gifted so they tend to get lost in the noise and either hide in the corner or look for validation in all the wrong places. The one thing they all share is a propensity to underperform. We understand these girls; we are passionate about these girls. We know for sure with some guidance and an awesome role model on their side these girls will step up, find their voice and shine.
The impact on the Little Sisters ie the mentees on this programme is life changing.
No better way to understand what our Big Sister programme is about than watch a clip from our latest graduation in 2022.
Over the years we have come to realise the Big Sister programme is as much a personal development programme for the women stepping up to be mentors as it is for the girls they support. It is clearly impossible to help a young girl find her voice, become more visible, improve her confidence and resilience and raise her game if you are not also doing this, so Little Sisters hold their Big Sisters to account without even knowing it! How empowering is that?
Big Sisters report major shifts in their confidence, risk taking, communications skills, mind-set and career aspirations and most importantly their visibility.
The women who step up, talk about their Big Sister experience as a major lesson in self-reflection and personal branding.
We recruit, select, train and support women from all walks of life to step up and become Big Sisters – from the corporate sector, entrepreneurs, the public sector and everything in between!
Since 2016 the demand for our work has escalated but school budgets for external intervention have virtually disappeared so to be able to continue with our much needed work we ask Big Sisters to contribute to the cost of this programme as the benefits to them are substantial too. You can do this by securing corporate sponsorship, fund raising or self-funding, The cost is £1,250 for your place. This includes your mentor training, peer mentoring during the programme, support and guidance during your year and all the events including launch and graduation.
The only other criteria for participation is simple:
To apply to join our Big Sister posse please click here
Sometimes we receive funding from other organisations and brands to support our work and more often than not we allocate these funds to supporting Big Sisters.
We contract with a school to run a Big Sister programme for 20 middle girls, from the same year, over 12 months. We then recruit and train 20 Big Sisters and connect the Big and Little Sisters and they work together as a family unit within the school environment for the following year. Alongside monthly one to one sessions our team organise several group events throughout the year for the whole group of Big and Little Sisters starting with a launch event where the Big Sisters get to meet their Little Sister for the first time, ending with a graduation ceremony where the Big and Little Sisters get celebrate their year together.
On average most Big Sisters commit to 22 hours a year volunteer time.
In addition to this we also train our mentors up front. This is done over a weekend day and early evening and counts for a further 10 hours and finally we support our mentors with 3 x 2 hour peer mentoring sessions throughout the year to help us deliver more skills, run good practice sessions and nurture their new peer group.
To date as a result of the Big Sister programme the confidence improvement in girls is 100%. We see around 50% improvement in attendance; 90% of girls on target to achieve 3 levels of improvement with regard to attainment; no pregnancies, no anti-social behaviour; and over 90% of girls setting their sights on further education or some form of vocational training.
We see shy girls find their voice; we see queen bees channel their street smart in a more empowering way; we see newly confident girls standing up for themselves, moving into new peer groups, making better choices with more emotional resilience and excited about their future.
And most importantly we see girls recognising their potential and embracing their greatness and taking on our philosophy of paying it forward and becoming a Big Sister to other girls in their school who may need some support or a friend.
This film was taken at one of our Big Sister graduation ceremonies where Big and Little Sisters celebrate their year long journey of mentoring and support together. They thank each other, share journeys and say goodbye – very empowering event!
I wanted to step up to be a Big Sister because ultimately I wanted to prove to myself I had the confidence to do something totally out of my comfort zone. My Big Sister experience was really surprising because actually it made me reflect on how I was a teenager and I was really pleased to be able to share that experience with Jasmine, which helped the Big Sister, Little Sister relationship.
I think the other thing that I’ve really thought about is it’s made me feel more confident and it’s reminded me to step up myself and be visible. And actually, on the back of that, I’ve been promoted twice this year.
Beth – Operations Manager for Co-op
My Big Sister encourages me to be better, she gives me short term goals and I keep getting merits and less referrals.
My Big Sister inspires me to be me and that’s enough. We can talk about anything.
It’s great to have someone on my side to prove to me I am someone.
I am more confident and if people are mean to me I ignore them or tell them to shut-up!
My Big Sister reminds me who I am and how awesome I am.
The support, inspiration and engagement our students received from Girls Out Loud was quite simply second to none. What other organisation would provide three years of wrap around care in the middle of a global pandemic on what was originally set out to be a 12 month strategy.
The ‘Big sister’ mentors were absolute champions in providing rapid, motivational and meaningful coaching to our students on careers, relationships, general school life, the trials and tribulations of growing up and how to flourish and survive a global pandemic! They honestly proved themselves to be completely irreplaceable pillars of support who not only championed the needs of each student but also empowered them to be the absolute best possible version of themselves.
The creative thinking, advocacy, and unwavering support that we as a school also received from Sarra and Jane was completely inspirational, they moved high mountains in order to ensure that each one of our learners had the right support and access to a champion during these unprecedented times.
I can honestly say that they have genuinely supported each of our students to flourish and grow into the self-motivated, resilient, and kind young learners that they are today.
On behalf of all of us at Wilmslow High School, thank you.