Every term we will be putting out a message from our Chief Executive. This term, Acting Chief Executive, Lucy Ball, talks about the spread of the Omicron variant and how this is causing disruption to the classroom, the looming UCAS application deadline, and much more.

We have welcomed in 2022 with the news that the rapid spread of the Omicron variant is causing further disruption to young peoples’ education. I wish I could have started a termly message without talking at length about COVID-19 – but here we are…

To say that this pandemic has been disruptive to young people’s education is an understatement – particularly for the disadvantaged students that we work with. Students having to take time off to isolate, and teachers being off sick, will sadly have even more of an impact.

What we have been hearing from our Headteachers is staff and student absences are causing concern about students achieving their full potential. Every single Head has also raised concerns about the mental health implications the pandemic is having on their students.

Against this backdrop, we know that our students benefit from consistent tuition and mentoring. Testament to this, we have seen the average number of tutorials attended by Year 11s and Year 13s exceed those in previous academic years by a notable margin. We have been a useful tool for gap-filling lost hours of learning during the pandemic.

The Access Project will continue to do whatever we can to ensure that disadvantaged young people weather this latest storm – and can still beat the odds to secure places at top universities.

UCAS applications

January is an extremely busy month for many of our Year 13s – as the UCAS deadline looms. Our University Access Officers have been supporting students on the run-up to this to ensure they submit the best possible applications and secure places at some of the top universities in the country.

We’ve also been asking some of our students to impart their own top tips to other young people in their cohort. Make sure you check out the advice that Precious pulled together here.

Grade thresholds

There has been a lot of talk in the education sector about the government’s suggested plans to introduce GCSE grade 4 in Maths and English as thresholds to go to university. Should such plans be actioned, this would affect about 5% of our students (going by the number of students who got a grade 4 or lower in Maths and English over the past four years).

Education is already an unequal playing field and we believe that young people who get grade 4 in Maths and English still have the potential to go to university, as we have seen time and time again at The Access Project. To introduce thresholds would not level the playing field in education – but instead penalise disadvantaged young people.

67% of our students placed at a top university in 2021

UCAS have confirmed what our early indications were pointing to – that 67% of our students placed at a top university in 2021. It is fantastic that we have maintained high placement rates at top universities – despite the challenges that the pandemic has thrown at our students. We are extremely proud of each and every one of them.

This includes students like Chriso. She tried her best to learn on a shared laptop that wasn’t working properly during the first lockdown. We supported her by providing her with a new laptop so she could continue to learn and access her online tuition. It was incredible to see her making the grades needed to study Law at King’s College London. 

Upcoming work during the Spring term

Oxbridge offers are starting to come through – so we want to say a big well done to all the students who have been offered places so far. We’ll know more on how many offers our students have received towards the end of the month.

In February we will be giving our Year 10s a glimpse at what university life looks like through our trips week – which will be online again this year due to the pandemic. This will include video sessions filmed by our university partners and alumni, Q&A sessions and activities for students. We want to show our Year 10 students that university is absolutely for them.

February will also mark LGBT History Month. We will be celebrating the month by asking our staff and students who their LGBTQ+ heroes are. Keep your eyes peeled for some lovely content coming your way throughout February.