This was never more true than in the past year. The impact of the pandemic on our students, their families, our partner schools and our staff has been devastating and, for many, life changing. Facing multiple lockdowns, disruption to work and school, and coping with changing family commitments has been tough.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
Support from Trust and Foundation partners this year, both existing and new, went beyond “business as usual”. It enabled us to adapt and change, remaining responsive in the face of COVID-19.
We were able to move our programme delivery online in March 2020, ensuring every student was supported through an incredibly difficult time. This work put us in a strong position from September 2020 – all tuition moved online, and we redesigned our mentoring provision so it could be delivered flexibly either in school or online. We did this to make sure we could continue working with every student even if they had to self isolate or if schools shut again.
This preparation proved invaluable when schools shut once again in January 2021. Through their generous grants and crucial support, our Trust and Foundation partners helped all of our students navigate the uncertainty of the winter lockdown.
We have seen the positive results of this support in the numbers of tutorials that our young people have taken part in this school year In recent years, tutorials averaged around 20,000 hours. But this year, students have attended a staggering 32,755 hours of tutorials. This big increase is a real testament to the hard work of our students and their fantastic tutors.
The young people our Trust and Foundation partners have supported
“I saw COVID-19 not only negatively impacting my education but also my mental health. I began overthinking more and worrying that my GCSE grades would be badly impacted by the pandemic. My motivation was low, I lacked concentration and I worried I would always feel like this.”
15-year-old Abida was not alone in her fears. Many of our students were juggling extreme anxiety around family, school work, lockdowns, money worries and isolation. Supporting young people through this difficult period is an ongoing priority for us, and one that our partners are helping us to achieve: “This is why having The Access Project has been so positive, because of the endless support the staff have given me during the pandemic.”
The bigger picture right now
We know that the bigger picture right now is worrying for young people from disadvantaged homes. Research conducted by the Education Policy Institute found that, prior to the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they took their GCSEs. That attainment gap has only widened during the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting even more young people. It is estimated that 120,000 more children are living in poverty in the UK because of the pandemic.
Young people from less advantaged homes deserve the help they need to unlock their potential and strive for the best. Now is the time to put their needs first to ensure they can look forward to a fairer future. Continued support from our Trust and Foundation partners puts The Access Project in the best possible position to help even more students in the months and years ahead.
We wish to say a heartfelt thank you to our Trust and Foundation partners who have supported us in the 2020/21 year.