Four-year programme aims to support students from low-income backgrounds to access the country’s top universities
United Learning has launched an innovative, four-year university access programme for the students in its schools.
This new initiative, United Access – a partnership with educational charity Accelerate and Access Foundation – is aiming to support and enable students within the Group from low-income backgrounds to access the UK’s top universities.
The programme is open to students who are eligible for Pupil Premium funding, would be the first generation in their family to go to university and have been identified by teachers as having the academic potential to excel in Higher Education. Currently six schools are involved in the initiative: Midhurst Rother College, Lambeth Academy, The Hurlingham Academy, The Totteridge Academy, The Regis School and Wye School. It is also being supported by the one of the Group’s independent schools, Caterham School, which will play host to students at a series of residential events.
Year 9 students from the six schools involved have been invited to apply to take part, with the schools themselves shortlisting ten students who they feel would benefit most from the opportunity. The Group has since chosen six students from the shortlists who were invited to an interview at Caterham School. Following this, three students from each school have been selected to go onto the programme.
The successful students can now look forward to a series of residential events at Caterham School, where they will be able to engage in a wide range of academic activities designed to go beyond the standard curriculum to challenge and develop their understanding. These academic lessons will be supplemented with a variety of activities exposing students to new experiences and ideas.
Students who were shortlisted for the interview stage but were not selected for United Access have all be offered the chance to apply for a university residential United Learning are holding this summer at the University of Birmingham.
The first official event of United Access will be held at Caterham School in May, followed by the first residential at the school in July. The same group of selected applicants will take part in the programme for a four-year period from Year 9 up until Year 12 in order to prepare them for the next stages of their educational careers.
For their four years on the programme, students are assigned a ‘learning mentor’ who will be a current undergraduate at a leading university volunteering their time for the programme. As well as meeting at the residential events, students and their mentors will be in contact throughout the year via a secure online platform. During Year 13, the mentor support may continue as students apply for university and complete their school education.
Martina Montecchiarini, United Learning’s Project Lead for the programme, said:
“Through this initiative, we want to support schools across our Group in identifying and nurturing the potential of students who would really excel at university and who should be given the confidence to aim for the country’s best institutions and academic courses – in the UK and internationally.
“The programme is another excellent example of the mutual benefits state and independent sector collaboration can bring to education and is an opportunity for teachers and our undergraduate volunteers to partner and share expertise. Most importantly, United Access is about helping those young people whose parents or families have never been to university or who come from low-income or challenging backgrounds.
“We are now through the initial application stages of the programme and we are excited to have selected an excellent, very promising group of Year 9s as the first United Access cohort. I know that we are all looking forward to seeing how they all get on when the programme officially kicks off in May and following their journeys over the next four years.”
The programme has been modelled on the AAF’s current flagship programme, the University Access Programme, seed funded by the Sutton Trust with continued support from The Garfield Weston Foundation and private donors. This programme has been running in Kent for the last three years and has shown early positive results which have been evidenced in a report prepared by the Centre for Evaluation Management at the University of Durham.
Ceri Jones, Headmaster at Caterham School and co-founder of the Accelerate and Action Foundation, said:
“The Accelerate and Access Foundation are delighted to be working in partnership with United Learning on this programme. This is a unique and exciting programme which we have piloted for four years working with independent and maintained schools in Kent and we know the incredible impact this sort of collaboration between the state and independent sector can have on the lives of pupils. I am thrilled that Caterham School is playing a key role in delivering the programme working closely with the six academies from within the United Learning family.
“This is a truly life changing programme – there is nothing else like this in the UK where independent and maintained schools, universities, undergraduates and other third sector organisations work together to support pupils for four years on a mentoring and residential programme. It demonstrates the transformative power of education and partnership and has tangible benefits for all participants – principally the pupils but also the schools, teachers and other organisations involved in delivery.”