At The Access Project our programme of tuition and in-school mentoring to boost self-belief is so important. Senior University Access Officer, Christian, has shared how the mentoring support we offer students is building a fairer society.

There are many definitions of what constitutes a ‘fair society’, but, at its core, a key tenet of one would be equality of opportunity – the notion that an individual’s access to all aspects of society is not restrained by their upbringing. There are a variety of different factors which contribute to how equitable a society is, but a significant one is educational disadvantage. At The Access Project, we take a broad approach to tackle educational disadvantage through the combination of academic support and one-to-one mentoring, and my role as a Senior University Access Officer is at the forefront of delivering this.

At The Access Project, we are focused on reducing the impact of educational disadvantage so that our students have as many opportunities as possible. By providing tuition support to students, we help them to develop confidence in their studies and realise their academic potential to achieve the grades required for top universities. However, our support does not end there. We recognise that grades, as significant as they may be, are not the sole barrier for our students. With University Access Officers working within schools, we support students with their university applications, demystifying what can be an overwhelming process. We start in Year 10, introducing the benefits of a top university, through to Year 13 with tailored personal statement support, and then even supporting them with their transition to university.

By training tutors and providing them with resources, our students receive weekly tuition that is bespoke to their specific needs, leading to them achieving, on average, over half a grade more than their classmates in their tutored subject. They are more than twice as likely to attend a top university as their peers from similar backgrounds. This proven combination of academic support and in-school mentoring has led to consistent success stories every year of students progressing to leading universities. 

In my role, one of the most satisfying aspects starts with convincing a student that they have the potential to apply to a certain university which they felt was out of reach, and then months later, seeing that same university offer them a place on their dream course. By getting to know the students as well as I  do, I can work with them and school staff to devise a pathway to success that is specific to them. Knowing that my former students now go to some of the country’s top universities fills me with immense joy that their hard work has been rewarded, but more importantly, that greater opportunities for them to make an impact in the future are available to them.

As with all things, however, the past 11 months have presented us all with challenges. For our students, the upheaval they have experienced during their formative years has taken its toll. The loss of the structure provided by in-person education as well as the lack of clarity regarding assessment has, understandably, led to some pessimism. But where routines have been taken away, we have sought to fill that vacuum and continued to work with partner schools to support students. We want them to believe that their futures can still be as fulfilling as they had envisaged a year ago. 

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