My Passion With Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor, a partner at chartered financial planners the Taylor Oliver Partnership, based in Chesterfield, talks about his passion for working with young people

WHEN you become a parent there is no training, you just jump in at the deep end and swim. We trawl back and recall our own experiences and rely on our parents to remind us wherever memories are a little too distant.

As my own children came of an age where they started to develop their own personalities, I became interested in trying to shape that development and read various books on the subject.

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When my eldest Ben was five years old, I became a governor at his primary school and then chair of governors six years later.

Despite the many challenges of the role, I thoroughly enjoyed making a contribution to the life of the school and working with the children and I continued to be impressed by their willingness to learn and attitude to life.

At the ages five to 11, this is the time when children learn lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Unlike grown-ups they do not have preconceived ideas and opinions.

I started to spend time trying to understand why some children found it more difficult to fit in than others, realising that difficult family backgrounds were in many cases to blame.

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When I resigned as chair of governors after 11 years, I had enjoyed my time working with some of the more challenging children but felt frustrated that teachers were forced to focus more on exam results than preparing the children for life.

As both my boys had moved to the local comprehensive, I was aware that a friend of mine, a local chartered accountant, did some mentoring at the school with children aged 15 and 16.

The classic definition of mentoring is of an older experienced guide who can help ease the transition to adulthood by a mix of support and challenge. My two boys were now of a similar age and as any parent realises, dealing with young adults is a very different skill to dealing with small children.

My friend Dominic Staniforth spent time teaching me what he had learned through his experience and the school then introduced me to a 15-year-old whom they thought might benefit from having a mentor.

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The school sees this as a way of hopefully improving academic achievement. I spend an hour a week with my ‘mentee’ and the challenge of getting to know them and gain their trust takes great planning and effort.

They might initially think you are a spy for the school and you carefully have to show them that you are on their team; you have to draw out their personal issues and work with them to improve both attitude and confidence.

No doubt every mentee is totally different so there is no real blueprint for success and that means my passion to make a difference will be an on-going challenge – but one that I think I will always enjoy.