Hundreds of our students have today beaten the odds to get places at some of the country’s leading universities this A level results day.

Beating the odds

Only four out of every 100 young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds get a place at top universities, Department for Education data shows. Young people from the most advantaged backgrounds were six times more likely to get a place at a top university.  The COVID-19 pandemic has made it incredibly difficult for disadvantaged young people to learn – with issues like digital poverty in the first lockdown setting many students back. Office for National Statistics data shows 18% of young people polled just after the first lockdown lacked access to a computer, laptop or tablet.  The attainment gap between disadvantaged young people and their more well-off peers could now be as high as 75%, Department for Education officials have predicted.

“I couldn’t even log into school on time”

Chriso, one of the young people we have supported during the COVID-19 pandemic

Chriso attends St Thomas More Catholic School and got her results today. Continuing to learn during the pandemic was really difficult for Chriso. She was working on a shared laptop that wasn’t working: “It got to the point where I couldn’t even log into school on time because it took so long to turn on.” We provided Chriso with a laptop so she could continue to study. Chriso is looking forward to going to university now. “My Dad really wants me to get into higher education – he always talks to me about university because he never got to experience it. My parents really want this for me.”

Our support for young people

Through our work, disadvantaged young people are provided with one-to-one subject-specific tuition from a volunteer and in-school mentoring with a member of our in-school staff. Through weekly tutorials, students become more confident in their chosen subject and are motivated to use the skills they learn in other subjects. Mentors provide students with guidance on revision skills, university choices and the application process.  In the last academic year 69% of young people working with The Access Projected secured a place at a top university.  Nathan Sansom, Chief Executive of The Access Project, said: “Our aim is to level the playing field for disadvantaged young people so they can go to top universities. This is needed now more than ever before – with the pandemic disproportionately affecting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Stepping up over the COVID-19 pandemic

The Access Project stepped up to respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We supported 1,877 young people – including 135 young people living in digital poverty by providing them with equipment (laptops and graphics tablets) so they could continue to learn from afar during the numerous lockdowns. Many students live in crowded households and so concentrating on learning was difficult for them – hence the need for us to provide noise cancelling headphones.  Recognising the wider challenges around mental health and wellbeing, the charity increased the level of one-on-one pastoral support they provided to students by over 1,000 check-ins.

Nathan Sansom continued: “The young people that we work with are very nervous today because this means so much to them and their families. For many, our support during the pandemic has helped them to stay connected to their learning, to keep them motivated, and to encourage them to stay optimistic about their futures. They have put in the hard work with their tutors and mentors and we’re incredibly proud of everything they have achieved. Our staff are in all of the schools we work in to support them through this – whether they’re successful or need support to get places on clearing.”