Global Student Mentoring – Ian Wigston & Erin Skelton

December 2022 – Ian:

Our Global Student Mentoring programme is starting a new cohort this month. Already we have students from half a dozen schools in the UK and Australasia who have applied who will follow in the footsteps of more than 40 girls who were part of our pilot cohort last year.

Another significant milestone this year is that one of our former mentees from the Global Mentoring Network for Aspiring Leaders, Erin Skelton from Nottingham Girls’ High School GDST, is going to be mentoring a group of girls. In so doing she will be cascading some of the leadership know-how which she acquired as a mentee and wrote about so eloquently in our most recent book, The Magic in the Space Beyond. 

I recently met the six student mentees from Nottingham Girls’ High School GDST when I introduced them to Insights Discovery, a Jungian psychometric model which we use with most of our clients. As well as submitting an application form and their CV, the girls will complete a questionnaire and will each receive an individual report which explores their decision making and problem solving approaches, highlights their possible blind spots and positions them according to a range of dimensions including introversion, extraversion, thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition. Through our initial feedback session and later coaching they will explore these aspects of themselves as well as learning about the difference between their conscious and less conscious personae.

Later in the programme, they will then join their fellow mentees in a series of webinars. The topics will range from social impact, developing resilience, and understanding and using their authentic power.

Each group of girls will also be paired with another school from overseas. Nottingham Girls’ High School GDST will be working with Pymble Ladies’ College, an independent school outside Sydney. Together they will undertake a social impact project, and in so doing gain valuable understanding about the different cultures and environment in which their partner students work.

They will work with their mentors over the next twelve months, the culmination of which will be a webinar with all the other participants when each group of students will present the results of their social impact projects.


December 2022 – Erin:

Having been a mentee in the most recent cohort of mentoring for aspiring leaders, I wanted to utilise my learnings within my Sixth Form. In addition, the GDST is very global in its focus, so the opportunity to undertake work with a girls school in Australia, particularly to focus on an impact project was something I knew would be of interest not only to myself and my girls, but also to the wider GDST.

My own experiences of the programme were very much about the development a greater understanding of self and utilising the Insights Discover tool have hone your understanding of purpose, values and to improve the way you both communicate and work with people on the basis of their unique profiles.

Going through the process of Insights Discovery is a very powerful tool for your self-reflection and this is something which I felt would be hugely beneficial to my Sixth Form students.

Knowing that we would pilot the programme with a small number of students, I was aware that selecting the participants would be a difficult process. Within education, we often talk about the benefits of a girls-only education in terms of the soft skills that students develop, Within GDST schools, this is often more obvious. Students who move through our schools are confident, forward-thinking communicators and this becomes more apparent as they move through our Sixth Forms. With this in mind, we chose to select a range of participants for the programme, all of whom show independence and excellent communication, but who come from a range of backgrounds and have a range of interests; athletes, scientists, artists. We also opted to choose several students who had joined us for Sixth Form and others who had been with us since Year 7.


January 2023 – Ian:

The feedback sessions themselves, each lasting just under an hour were as varied as the girls themselves. The girls had been well chosen, and collectively represented an excellent cross section of predispositions. 

Erin and I delivered the sessions together, with Erin’s prior knowledge of the girls enabling here to complement the feedback from the report with succinct well framed questions. 

We asked each of the girls to assess the accuracy of the report, with average accuracy in excess of 85%. One girl commented that the report was “scarily accurate” and others were keen to know how a 25 item questionnaire could generate such a rich and insightful report. 

One aspect however was common to each of the girls. Although they were a mix of introvert and extravert preferences, and were divided 50/50 between their preferences for thinking as opposed to feeling traits, they each acknowledged they were indecisive. In a group this size one would expect perhaps one or two to admit to this, but for it to be a factor across all six was unusual.

Probing this in more detail, there were different facets at play: in one case the student’s perfectionism allied with their need to meet deadlines meant that they often vacillated between the two, pulled in one direction then another like the horses on the Levi jeans logo. 

In another case the proliferation of ideas and a strongly values driven approach created a different tension between too many possibilities and and inability to prioritise criteria. 

As the girls are in their second term of A level study, we speculated whether the move from a more didactic, sometimes rote driven learning style at GCSE to the more open ended approach needed at A level might be responsible for the indecision, or whether the culture of the school created an environment where being decisive and wrong was discouraged.

Another question which was posed by a couple of the girls concerned the appropriateness of their profile for their chosen career. Given that the girls in question had contrasting profiles and were both considering medicine, this assumed a  sharper perspective. The point I made in replying is that there is no single appropriate profile for any specific job role. There will be certain traits it would be helpful to have, but  creative scientists like Crick and Watson are as important as the more data driven Rosalind Franklins of this world, and often the key is in how well they can combine their respective skills to bring about a result. 

Another point to bear in mind here is that even if a candidate’s lowest scoring trait suggests that they might struggle with, say the problem solving demands of the role relative to the creative aspects of the job, there is no way of assessing their overall horsepower relative to one another – we are assessing thinking style here, not levels of intelligence. Bill Gates and I might have the same set of predispositions but his horsepower is infinitely greater than mine.


January 2023 – Erin:

Our students undoubtedly are highly talented, purposeful and ambitious, however high-achieving girls tend towards perfectionism, can be highly indecisive because of a desire to please and can sometimes struggle to see an alternative perspective or look at things with a wider lens. Having completed the Insights Discovery profiling myself, I knew the power to see your own characteristics in an highly analytical and data-driven style. I also knew that the process has the ability to take the mystery out of how to effectively communicate and work with people of different ‘types’.

When paired with the chemistry of a exceptional mentor the report forms the basis of continuous coaching, which is something that all pastoral teams in education undertake, whether they realise it or not. It has the ability to transform a students understanding of themselves and their soft skills which can carry them through the major life decisions in Sixth Form and hone their leadership skills, effectively setting them apart in their trajectory. To be able to trial this process in a low-stakes way whilst in Year 12, harnessing this into a piece of research or a community project with a school on the other side of the world is a rare gift that most students don’t get the time or the forum to achieve. 

From an educator’s point of view I am incredibly interested in understanding what influences a Sixth Former’s understanding of self and how this determines the decisions they make in Sixth Form in terms of A-level choices, post-18 education and whether they follow this path through to a successful career. With this in mind, I focused some of my questioning about how they saw themselves and the drivers for making decisions pertaining to their education to date. Some feedback sessions allowed for further discussions around university courses and I was interested to see whether their views on themselves and their potential future outcomes where confirmed by the profile reports.

I am also incredibly interested in the relationship between personal characteristics, teaching pedagogy and how successful different students are in the classrooms of different teachers. I have hypothesised since completing my own Discovery profile that problems can arise if you are teaching your ‘opposite type’ and don’t consciously make pedagogical adaptions for their styles and needs. For this reason, some of my questions focused on subjects the students enjoyed and lessons where they felt successful and vice versa. It is my intention further to research the Insights profiles of teaching staff and the wider implications for teaching and learning.

Ian Wigston & Erin Skelton

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