'Champions' want to level the playing field

Published: 18 August 2017 at 14:58

Young woman receiving guidance

Anglia Ruskin University is a partner in regional initiative to improve prospects

Higher Education 'Champions' are helping young people from disadvantaged areas in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to explore their options and fulfil their potential.

Anglia Ruskin University is taking the lead in implementing the ‘Take Your Place’ programme across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as part of a collaboration between higher education organisations in East Anglia.

The project is funded as part of the Government’s £120million National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) and will explore the barriers to progression faced by young people in disadvantaged areas and implement innovative, evidence-led initiatives to overcome these – levelling the playing field for the region’s young people.

The aim is to double the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Higher Education by 2020.

As part of the project, Anglia Ruskin has employed five people based in five schools across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, working with pupils from Year 9 to 13. The team will also be available to a further 20 schools in surrounding areas.

These Higher Education Champions will develop bespoke mentoring and attainment-raising programmes which suit the needs of the individual schools, design resources and activities for parents and teachers, and organise presentations and events.

Rachel Pickering, one of Anglia Ruskin’s Higher Education Champions, said:

“I am excited to be part of the Take Your Place project, working in schools in and around Peterborough. Having recently worked as a Geography teacher, I understand the challenge in providing tailored support for students as they assess their post-16 and 18 options.

“In this project I hope to complement and support existing work in my schools, providing extra capacity to ensure students, parents and carers are equipped with the information, advice and guidance to make informed decisions about higher education.”

Rebecca Avery, County Co-ordinator for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said:

“Despite significant progress made by our local Higher Education Institutions in recent years to widen participation across the region, there are still pockets of low participation where, due to various socio-economic factors, aspiration remains behind the rest of the region and below the national average.

“The key to this project is that we are listening, not only to the available research but to our young people from these areas, their teachers, their parents and the community networks around them.

“By sending our Champions into schools, they will be able to build those key relationships, aligning themselves with the needs of each individual area and, as a result, develop effective programmes to fill the gaps in knowledge, opportunities and resources to help our young people reach their potential through higher education.”

The Take Your Place project is being delivered in the region by Anglia Ruskin University and partners on behalf of The Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach (neaco). The consortia is made up of Anglia Ruskin University, University of East Anglia, Norwich University of the Arts, University of Cambridge and University of Suffolk, and is in partnership with eight further education colleges including Cambridge Regional College and Peterborough Regional College.

The initiative will run until the end of 2018, with the possibility of a further two years of funding after that.