By Ian Cheong
Sai Pathmanathan, a fourth-year student who founded the project, said: “I used to have a scout in First year who I felt particularly close to. She died this year, and I happened to find this out two months after her funeral. I was so frustrated with College for not even sending out an email to notify students who may have wanted to pay their respects.
He said he worked out this was “just a reflection of the fact that students just don’t get to know the domestic staff as well as say their College tutors/other academic staff […] so I thought: let’s do something about it!
He continued: “I originally thought about offering free tutoring to the children of College staff . […] I conducted research over the Easter quite formally by carrying out a survey and speaking to roughly 30 members of staff .”
However, he said it became clear this was unfeasible, but that “so many of the staff expressed interest in things that they wanted to learn themselves […] I was a little hesitant at first because the idea of students teaching staff might come across as patronising.
“But frankly, if staff want to learn, and there are students willing to help them, the amount of good that can come out of it outweighs all these thoughts on how it might be perceived.”
Pathmanathan said that there were three main benefits: staff learning skills, students developing teaching skills, and College becoming more integrated. He also said they hoped staff would come to teach students skills like cookery and woodworks in time.
Amy Allen, a fourth year medic, and a coordinator of the programme, said: “Basically we wanted to bridge the gap between staff and students by providing some teaching for scouts, catering staff and other staff , mainly on conversational English as many have English as their second language.
The participants of the programme include 15 College staff and 17 students.
Allen added: “We have only had one session so far, the first was last week, but the plan is to do a few experimental sessions this term and kick it off properly with weekly one-hour teaching sessions next term.
“The response has been great – the session was enjoyed by all and the staff found it to be useful. There was a good atmosphere with lots of laughs as well as teaching.”
A second year Wadham student said: “At first I was a little sceptical about the idea, I thought it would be really patronising if it was gone about the wrong way, but having seen the keen response from College staff themselves I’m very glad to be helping out.
“Most scouts only see their jobs as temporary, and if we can give them the skills they need to get the jobs they want then I’m all for it.”
Domestic Bursar Frances Lloyd said: “We are pleased at the introduction of the pilot tutoring programme for Wadham non-academic staff initiated by Wadham students and provided on a volunteer basis. The programme has made an encouraging start with participants from a number of departments.
“The programme also complements the Investors in People accreditation which the College has held since May 2005. We look forward to seeing the initiative develop.”
The coordinators of the programme said they are looking to expand and hope to hear from interested students at other colleges.