As we reflect on 2020 we asked Access Project staff, tutors and students to tell us what this year has been like for them and how TAP has given them hope for a better future. Senior University Access Officer, Christian explains how school closures and exam cancellations have impacted his students…

Whilst 2020 has clearly been a challenging year for all, the impact on school children has been huge, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds being hardest hit. With schools closing back in March, millions of young people around the country lost out on the invaluable structure and direction that school provides, as well as opportunities to develop their emotional maturity.

Likewise, early in the pandemic, it was being discussed as the ‘great leveller’, with all sections of society being impacted. As an organisation that works with young people from underrepresented backgrounds, The Access Project has become acutely aware of these issues.  As schools were forced to close, students lost out on the opportunity to have an expert in their subject explain new concepts to them, meaning they were required to teach themselves. Fortunately, through the dedication of our volunteer tutors, we were able to continue our tuition support through an online platform. We have also been able to provide laptops to the students that did not have access to one, through the generosity of our partners. This has since paved the way for us to move all of our tutorials online so that 1400 can continue to receive individual academic support on a weekly basis.

Our mentoring programme has allowed students to continue planning for their futures beyond school. It has helped our students to remain optimistic about future opportunities and has provided them with the direction and motivation they need for success. The resilience that they have shown throughout the pandemic has been inspiring. To have such drastic changes take place during the formative years of their education, you would not blame them for crumbling under the pressure. However, my students have continued to impress me with their dedication and focus on improving their grades and to plan for their futures.

A large part of our role is to support students in reaching their potential and demonstrate to them the opportunities that will be available to them. This is perhaps the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of my job. I cannot wait to continue these conversations where the students are able to realise that an exciting and dynamic future is ahead of them, and that the plan to get there is already in place. As I write this, we have all received the positive news of potential vaccines that may be able to steer us out of the pandemic. Such cause for optimism has obviously been greatly received and has served as a reminder to our students that, despite the adversity that this year has brought, their futures remain full of promise and opportunity.

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