Pupils in schools across Swindon have been hearing about the benefits of higher education from a representative of one of the country’s top universities.
Will Fenwick, Schools Liaison and Outreach Officer for Cambridge University’s Robinson College, has visited Swindon UTC, New College, Swindon Academy and Dorcan Academy in recent months to inspire students to apply to Cambridge and higher education in general.
Increasing the proportion of young people accessing higher education is one of the key priorities set by the Swindon Challenge Board, which brings together all key stakeholders in education to improve educational outcomes in Swindon.
Recent figures from the Department of Education show that in Swindon 1,500 students completed Key Stage 5 courses in 2015/16. Of these, 259 went on to spend at least at least two terms of the next school year at university, 109 embarked on apprenticeships and 178 got jobs.
The Swindon Challenge Board wants to increase the proportion of young people accessing Higher Education by 25 per cent.
Robinson College has been working with both schools in Swindon and Wiltshire to promote the awareness of its degree opportunities for the most able students, who may underestimate their own abilities and potential.
“My role is to increase awareness and promote the fantastic opportunities offered by Cambridge and Oxford,” Will explained, while on a visit to meet senior education leaders in Swindon.
“The college offers taster days for groups of students, which have really opened pupils’ eyes on what they could achieve.”
The Council’s Routes to Employment team is using a range of initiatives and partnerships to help inspire young people to go into higher education.
Using the Study Higher programme, more than 3,000 students in schools and colleges in Swindon have been inspired by motivational speakers in assemblies, revision skills sessions and one-to-one mentoring. Students have also taken part in the practical seminar on careers in medicine, namely Medical Mavericks.
Fantastic Futures, funded by Study Higher and run by Villiers Park Educational Trust, has also seen mentoring activities take place and a school project where students can share the skills learned with their peers, as well as opportunities to attend a residential at Oxford University.
A number of schools are also taking part in outreach activities from other universities in the region including Bath, Bristol, UWE, Oxford Brookes and Gloucester. The apprenticeships manager at UWE also recently visited Swindon schools to talk about degree apprenticeship opportunities.
Local secondary schools and further education colleges are being supported by the Swindon and Wiltshire Careers Hub and Enterprise Adviser Network, via The Careers & Enterprise Company and Swindon and Wiltshire LEP.
The Careers Hub, one of only 20 pilots in the country, has access to support and funding to help local schools and colleges meet the eight Gatsby Benchmarks of excellent careers education.
Benchmark 7: Encounters with Further and Higher Education, seeks to ensure that all young people understand the full range of learning opportunities that are available to them. As well as supporting the outreach work via a range universities, the Careers Hub has provided training opportunities for local Careers Leaders and teaching staff via a Careers Summit and an HE Conference.
Ongoing activities include the promotion of local and national opportunities to promote pathways to Higher Education routes, including degree level apprenticeships and utilising the support of local employers and business links through offers to young people in terms of workplace visits, careers talks or mock interview activities.
Councillor Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and School Attainment, said: “Part of my role is to encourage and raise aspirations at all levels and this outreach from Robinson College is very welcome.
“I would like to encourage more Swindon schools to get engaged and challenge pupils to apply for Cambridge, Oxford and the Russell Group universities so more of our most able students go on to the top universities and realise their undoubted potential.”