Yesterday I was visiting a school which, despite the lack of funding, has maintained an “Aimhigher Co-ordinator” who continues to work hard to ensure young people in his school have the best possible opportunity to move on to university. It was most heartening but is a real struggle at a time when the number of student places at universities is shrinking and fees are growing.
Also this week I have been talking to a colleague at a London University College who has been applying for extra money to support an exciting project being developed within their “Widening Participation” programme. Again, how does this marry with the current HE climate?
One answer seems to be forming close associations between schools, FE colleges and universities and in particular the evolution of Access Agreements, which, although not new, are changing in range and rigour. Linking London, a partnership of London universities, colleges and other education specialists dedicated to working collaboratively, held an event to discuss this issue on 14th October this year as reported in its on-line magazine “The Link”. Themes discussed were retention, outreach work, collaboration and information for applicants. Of particular interest was how partners identify, track and evaluate outreach work across the whole learner journey from pre entry to graduation and beyond. The value of any widening participation programme or Access Agreement has to be measured so hoped for outcomes have to be clear from the start. ‘Soft ‘outcomes should also be considered.
It has to be remembered that universities charging the highest fees to students from 2012 have to demonstrate how they are going to support areas of low participation and particularly those young people in lower socio economic groups.
So if you are a school or college which wants to continue seeing your students move on to HE what should you do?
- Get to know your local universities
- Make this part of somebody’s job description
- Start providing university information and experiences early
- Drip feed rather than undertake a one-off project
- Identify groups who will benefit from university links
- For some students make sure your curriculum reflects what universities want
- Make sure universities understand your curriculum offer
- Have a clear understanding of the local Access Agreements and offers
- Keep up to date. Two new projects are:
Vocational Learners and Progression to HE; a combined Linking London and Edexcel project.
Access to HE Diplomas and Access Agreements, an OCNLR project.
Further information can be found at:
Remember how important it is that once high expectations have been set that young people don’t become disillusioned and disappointed with the opportunities available to them. We need to be there to help.
So congratulations to all the schools, colleges and HEIs who are continuing to keep doors open for all their students. (Those who watched last week’s episode of Education Essex will know what I mean).
Vicky has been successfully engaged with education for more than 30 years as a teacher, senior leader, local authority adviser and consultant, specialising in the secondary sector. She has a particular specialism in learning and teaching and using data to drive improvement. Vicky can provide organisations with briefings, workshops and a range of other forms of support to organisations to support them in curriculum development, and improving learning and teaching both at secondary and post-16 level. Please contact us for more information.