Students in a West Midlands town with hopes of going to university are to get extra support thanks to a new initiative between The Access Project (TAP) & SOAS University of London. TAP is launching a new four year partnership with SOAS and Wood Green Academy in Wednesbury, to help disadvantaged students access top universities.

The Access Project runs a programme of personalised tuition & in-school support at Wood Green Academy, helping young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds improve their grades and gain the skills they need to apply for university. UCAS data shows TAP’s students are four times as likely as similar peers to attend top universities. 

The university partnership will help build a strong relationship between the school, TAP, and SOAS, which is the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It will help to raise attainment and student aspiration at a time when disadvantaged students need more support than ever. Even before the COVID pandemic young people from more affluent backgrounds were six times more likely to get places at the most selective universities, according to the Office for Students.

China Hutchinson, was a year 13 student on the TAP programme at Wood Green Academy last year. She achieved an A* in her tutored subject English and now attends a top university: “My TAP tutor was incredible, I would never have been able to pay for a tutor myself. My support from my mentor provided such great value, I was encouraged to apply to university, helped with my personal statement, and guided through the application process.”

The initiative aims to reach students who may feel selective universities aren’t accessible to them. “Wood Green Academy is a perfect school for SOAS to work with,” said Marva de la Coudray, Head of Access, Participation and Student Success at SOAS: “The partnership will enable us to reach out to students who might otherwise not consider a selective university such as SOAS. We are looking forward to working in partnership with the Academy and The Access Project to help students realise their dreams and aspirations.” 

Over the next three years SOAS will help The Access Project deliver tutoring and mentoring support to GCSE & A-Level students at Wood Green Academy. The university will facilitate visits to SOAS (currently virtual tours), provide volunteer tutors & help to resource the charity’s core programme. 

James Topham, Headteacher at Wood Green Academy, said:This is an exciting opportunity to build a strong relationship between Wood Green Academy and SOAS, one of the UK’s top universities. It will help raise the academic expectations of our students and enable them to see a successful pathway from the school to university.”

TAP Chief executive, Nathan Sansom, believes the new university partnership will make a profound difference to students at the school: ‘It will be a wonderful opportunity for SOAS and Wood Green Academy to provide opportunities for our students to have contact with staff and students at a top university and see it as a realistic destination for them’.