At The Access Project our programme of tuition and in-school mentoring to boost self-belief is so important. University Access Officer, Digby, has shared how the mentoring support we offer students is building a fairer society.
I first became interested in working for The Access Project while volunteering as a tutor for another education charity, and hearing about them from a friend working there. I was hugely impressed by TAP’s commitment to evaluating impact and the difference they make to young people on their programme. I was inspired not just by the numerous statistics demonstrating how effective it is, but also by the amount of thought and self-reflection that goes into improving the programme.
TAP supports students to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses, and what methods work best for them in improving their academic performance. I have noticed in the few weeks I have been here, that TAP applies this principle to itself as well. There is a constant flow of information and ideas between all levels of the organisation, collecting and analysing not just data and charts, but the experiences of those being supported by TAP, and those delivering that support. All of this information is channeled into improving how effectively TAP can help the young people on our programme, and close the educational attainment gap. This drive for constant improvement also comes from everyone at TAP, from the CEO (who still regularly volunteers as a tutor), to new starters.
I was particularly excited about the expansion of TAP into Bradford, and not just because I’m a Northern lad myself. The North-South divide is even more pronounced when looking at the attainment gap and educational disadvantage. The North has the lowest percentage of students progressing to higher education, and being from an economically disadvantaged background has an even larger impact on educational attainment in the North than the South, for a variety of complex reasons. Bradford has one of the youngest average populations of any city in the country, and one of the highest rates of child deprivation. Whilst these figures are concerning, they also highlight how much of a positive and long lasting impact TAP can have in this region.
Not only will TAP’s programme directly work towards building a fairer society, but the publically available data they collect is also invaluable for other projects working to combat inequality. It’s arguable that the evidence they (and others) have collected on the positive impact of focused one on one teaching and mentoring was instrumental in the establishment of the new National Tutoring Programme. Without the work they have been doing for over a decade, we might be significantly less prepared to meet the unique educational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’m thrilled that TAP has expanded into the North of England, working with Dixons Academy Cottingley and Dixons Academy Allerton to help boost the number of students getting to top universities. I firmly believe that their programme will be a huge success in Bradford, and have a measurable, testable impact on building a fairer society.