Mentoring our mentors

Wednesday 12 July 2017

First ESU ambassadors appointed in a scheme that recognises the vital importance of our mentors.

Mentors are a key part of the work of the ESU; they coach at our workshops and judge many of our competitions. To ensure they provide the best possible experience for students, and that they themselves can develop as they teach, we have introduced a new ambassadors scheme to help guide and support the mentors in their work.

Situated in various parts of England and Wales, these ambassadors will provide a local point of contact for our mentors, meeting them regularly, assessing their performance and providing further skills development. In addition to this, we are extending the mentor training programme to a whole weekend, as well as covering the costs of a child protection qualification.

The initiative is the work of the newly formed Education Network team which comprises: Maia Gibbs (Head of Education Network), Gareth Williams (Education Network Officer) and Alex Orpin (Alumni Officer).

Our first three ESU Ambassadors are:

Laura Smith (pictured top right)

Ambassador for the north-west and north Wales, based in Manchester. Laura is a former training officer for the Manchester University Debating Union, and is currently studying for a masters in civil engineering.

Craig McDonald (left)

Ambassador for the south-west and South Wales, based in Pontypridd. Craig has been a mentor with the ESU since 2014 and has worked on numerous programmes: Discover Your Voice and the Welsh Schools’ Mace, and has been the organiser of the Welsh leg of the John Smith Memorial Mace.

Constance Collard (centre)

Known as ‘Coco’ to her friends, Constance is our ambassador for the north-east. She is an alumna of many of our programmes, having competed in the ESU-Churchill National Public Speaking Competition for Schools and the ESU Schools’ Mace. She has also been one of the hundreds of pupils who take part in our House of Lords debate each year, speaking within the chamber at an event led by the Lord Speaker.

A member of the Durham Union Society, Coco also has considerable experience coaching debating across KS3 and KS4 and so is in an excellent position to ensure that we are able to develop oracy skills across the north-east; not just in urban areas but also in smaller towns and cities in line with our education strategy.

Q&A with Constance Collard

‘Ultimately, my role will allow the ESU to help produce confident, globally aware and articulate young people’

Why did you want to be an ESU Ambassador?

Having experienced first-hand the programmes that the ESU runs for schoolchildren, including debate training sessions and numerous competitions, I believe in the transformational power of debating and public speaking skills and really wanted to support this work. I’m also very excited to put my experience in competitive debating into practice in a meaningful and rewarding way.

What are you looking forward to most?

School-leavers in the north-east are far less likely to go to university than their peers in any other region. Ultimately, my role will allow the ESU to deliver more programmes in this area, all of which help produce confident, globally aware and articulate young people. These skills are essential for success in many capacities, so I’m most looking forward to assisting the expansion into the region, and eventually seeing an established network of schools that participate in public speaking and debating.


Feeling inspired? There are lots of opportunities to get involved with our work. You can find out more here.