If you have been your school’s careers lead or
outreach co-ordinator for a while, you will know
that the government often change their mind
about how they want universities to support
The government’s latest priority for universities is to support attainment raising. This should, they say, boost equal access to university because we know the attainment of student groups underrepresented in higher education is often lower than their more advantaged peers. If pupils achieve better grades in their exams, it should widen their options for post-16 and post-18 study.
The first thing to say here is that universities are not the experts in how to support attainment raising in schools. And we know that. Teachers support young people to achieve their best every single day, and we are not going to claim we have all the answers. We also know that so many of the challenges young people face happen outside of school, and neither universities nor schools can solve these without the support of other agencies. But we do believe we can work in partnership with you to complement your school’s attainment raising strategies.
University outreach teams already do a lot of
different things that are designed to support
attainment. Some of this activity might have
an explicit focus on attainment like offering
revision or study skills sessions, tutoring or
academic mentoring from undergraduate
students. This type of work is designed to
boost skills used for learning (what you might
hear referred to as metacognition) or improve
confidence in academic skills (what we refer to
as self-efficacy). You may have taken cohorts to
university taster days - these are often subject-
specific, with extra- or supra-curricular activities
designed to enhance knowledge gained inside
Universities also deliver other types of activities which might have the secondary effect of boosting attainment, by helping young people improve their motivation and give them a route to higher education. This work is just as important as work directly aiming to boost attainment - good exam grades might widen choice, but if students aren’t empowered to understand their options or understand how they can achieve their goals, they may not be able to make an informed choice about which university is right for them, or which type of qualifications they should take at sixth form or college to facilitate entry to the course or university they are aiming for.
You should expect to see the continuation of these types of information, advice, and guidance activities, along with campus visits which show young people the realities of university life so they can picture themselves there.
Supporting good attainment is only one part of working towards equal access to higher education. If we want to improve access to higher education, we not only need to give young people the tools (study skills, exam technique, motivation) to succeed, but also the knowledge to make informed choices. Universities should be aiming to do both - and you should not be afraid to remind them of that.
This free newsletter will include information on university events added to UniTasterDays, as well as details about new webinars and blog releases for you and your students.
by Ashleigh Poole
posted on 22 Sep '23
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is an opportunity for teachers and school staff to interact with external mentors, share best practice and enhance their knowledge in specific subject areas, including the higher education journey. This blog will tell you more about all the opportunities.