The young people with the highest academic potential from the lowest income backgrounds are the most severe underachievers in the UK today. A new partnership, announced on Monday 19 September, will help them to overcome the numerous and complex obstacles to success.
It has been announced that Trinity College Cambridge is supporting Villiers Park Educational Trust’s Scholars Programme in Swindon to help raise the educational attainment of students from lower income backgrounds and increase access to leading universities.
The Villiers Park Educational Trust’s Scholars Programme currently operates in six schools and colleges in the Swindon area including Churchfields Academy, Cirencester College, Lydiard Park Academy, New College, St Joseph’s Catholic College, and The Commonweal School.
Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, Professor Les Ebdon, welcomed the pioneering partnership, the first of its kind between a Cambridge College and Villiers Park, a national expert in post-14 learning. Prof Ebdon said: “Villiers Park Educational Trust is doing important and useful work to help widen access to universities with the highest entrance requirements. Their Scholars Programme in Swindon is an interesting and exciting scheme, and I look forward to seeing the impact of their new partnership with Trinity College Cambridge.”
Trinity has committed £150,000 over three years to support the Trust’s Scholars Programme in Swindon, an area where only 24% of 18 year-olds go on to higher education, compared to the national average of 35%.
One of seven regional programmes, the Swindon Scholars Programme will support 120 students each year through one-to-one sessions with Learning Mentors, undergraduate e-mentors, workshops, masterclasses and residential courses in Cambridge. Villiers Park CEO, Richard Gould, said: “These activities inspire the Scholars to fulfil their potential by helping them develop a passion for learning and it raises their aspirations, attainment and the skills needed to succeed. This new partnership will foster this focus on educational excellence.”
Trinity Admissions Tutor, Professor Adrian Poole, said: “The partnership reflected the College’s commitment to academic excellence, regardless of a student’s background or financial situation.
“We recognise that the factors affecting educational achievement are many and often deep-rooted. Raising aspirations and improving attainment is a complex task, not something that happens overnight. We have been impressed by the results Villiers Park has achieved, and we are pleased to collaborate with them in their carefully planned Scholars Programme in Swindon.”
Mr Gould agreed that, while raising educational attainment was not easy, the Scholars Programme proved it could be done. Of the 300 students, all from less advantaged backgrounds, who graduated from the first two Scholars Programmes between 2011-2016, 79% gained a place at university, against a national average of 19% for the most disadvantaged students in the UK. Mr Gould said: “Impact data shows that prolonged and sustained work with a group of high ability students is the key to improving the chances of less advantaged students accessing leading universities.
“Anecdotal evidence also shows that through the Scholars acting as ambassadors within their schools and colleges, the Scholars Programme is helping to raise the aspirations and attainment of their peers.”
Director of Fair Access, Professor Ebdon, said: “Targeted, long-term outreach was one of the best ways to improve access to university for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s important that institutions involved in delivering this kind of activity make use of outcomes data to understand the effectiveness of their work.”