Tips on how to improve fair access and social mobility
Education plays a key role in fostering social mobility. There is a close correlation between high attainment and a host of quality of life measures for the individual, including a rewarding career pathway, higher income, better health and improved parenting.
In the UK today, a student’s background still determines their life prospects. At each phase of the education process those from less advantaged backgrounds do less well than their peers. Very able young people without a family tradition of higher education are not only at a substantial disadvantage when it comes to gaining access to a leading university, but also with regard to career progression. A lack of peer and family role models and networking opportunities, low aspirations and underdeveloped learning skills are all contributory causes.
The Villiers Park Scholars Programme addresses social mobility by working with able students from less advantaged backgrounds and their schools and colleges. Based on our 50 years’ expertise and past experience, six years ago we launched our first Scholars Programme and our newest initiative is the Norfolk Scholars Programme, in partnership with the University of East Anglia. This provides a cohesive and coherent four-year pathway to raise attainment and aspirations.
Success is ultimately measured in terms of attainment and university destination, but equally important are qualitative measures relating to self-esteem, aspirations and the acquisition of skills which collectively increase the chances of sustained success for the young people.
Budgets and time are ever tighter and there is no pupil premium funding at post-16…
So how can you adapt and use elements from our Scholars Programme?
- Target able students – who are often the biggest underachievers in terms of attainment
- Learning Mentors – providing ongoing and regular one-to-one discussions to develop learning and thinking skills
- E-Mentors – use university undergraduates to provide HE subject-specific information, advice and inspiration for younger students
- One-day workshops – to develop learning skills such as questioning and creativity. Perhaps you could host and/or provide one for students from several schools?
- University Masterclasses – high quality educational activities outside the classroom bring substantial learning benefits, including social ones. They are provided free of charge by universities like UEA
- Inspiring Excellence Programme – challenging, transformational subject-specific residential courses for post-16 students that develop their passion for learning
- Online extension activities – enable students to explore a subject in more depth, teachers are welcome to make use of our 210 free online extension activities for able post-16 students
- Staff training – to enable reflection on current practice and to develop it to ensure able students are stretched and challenged in the everyday classroom. Our Advisory Service is a national expert in post-16 CPD
- Ambassadors – use your students as ‘resources’ to take a lead on peer-to-peer learning.
Nina, a Scholar alumna from Hastings, was awarded a first class honours degree in History from the University of East Anglia last year. She said: “Villiers Park Educational Trust sparks the belief in young students that they can achieve great things. The recognition of that and the opportunity to enhance their potential is offered to them with the Villiers Park Scholars Programme, which nurtures and mentors students who otherwise might not have thought that further study was a viable option for them.”
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