West Yorkshire pupils raise their aspirations at university summer school
The ‘Class of 2023’ residential, hosted by Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Trinity University, Leeds City College, Bradford College, the University of Bradford and Wakefield College, was funded by Go Higher West Yorkshire - a partnership of 12 higher education providers in West Yorkshire, committed to encouraging under-represented groups to aspire, apply, enter and succeed in higher education – and the government’s National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) – which aims to increase the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education by 2020. Support was also provided by Leeds College of Art and University of Huddersfield staff and ambassadors.
Around 100 year 10 pupils aged 14 and 15, who will be taking their GCSEs next year, attended the summer school from Tuesday 18 to Thursday 20 July. Throughout the three days, the pupils stayed at Leeds Beckett University’s Kirkstall Brewery student accommodation whilst having the chance to visit a selection of the university and college campuses, taking part in a series of workshops and social activities.
The aim of the residential was to give the pupils the chance to find out about the range of courses and higher education providers on offer in West Yorkshire; give them the opportunity to take part in university-level workshops; raise their aspirations; inspire them to think about applying for university in the future; and give them first-hand experience of university life so they can picture themselves as students in the future.
Will Atkinson, Collaborative Outreach Coordinator at Leeds Beckett, explained: “This is the third year in a row that Leeds Beckett University has hosted Go Higher West Yorkshire’s residential, which is staffed by a fantastic team of student ambassadors from the universities and colleges involved. They were great role models for the school pupils.
“I was hugely impressed by the attitude of all the participants this year – they took the time to ask staff and ambassadors lots of questions about higher education, they showed levels of maturity beyond their years, and crucially they always embraced new experiences with openness and positivity.
“At the end of the residential, the team of staff received lots of positive feedback from the participants, with a common theme being how the residential had helped them to believe that higher education could be a realistic option for them in the future. This was particularly gratifying for staff members involved in the delivery of the residential as we want to welcome individuals from all backgrounds onto our campuses to ensure they feel they can belong and thrive in higher education environments in a few years’ time.
“The undoubted highlight for me was when one participant said that coming on the residential was the best experience of her life! We look forward to seeing as many of the participants as possible graduate from higher education in six years’ time as the Class of 2023.”
James Kelly, a teacher at Carlton Bolling College in Bradford, said: “I think the best activity has been the university taster sessions on the second day: these were engaging and a chance for them to dive in and have a look at what a higher education course could actually be like for them. It was also a good opportunity for them to mix in with other schools which is something that they’re going to have to do at university and was a rewarding experience.”
Ruth Kempf, a teacher at Bishop Young Academy, said: “The UCAS fair was particularly inspirational for our kids – it’s not something they’ve ever really experienced before. They’ve had a careers fair at school and they likened it to that; and I think the realisation that it actually is for everybody, and it is possible, is something that they really got out of that. Also the chance to be able to work with different kids from different schools and different backgrounds has been great; and the fact that half of our team of students, five of them, were able to actually stand up and present, and have the confidence to do that, which I don’t think they would have done at the start of the three days. A lot of our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and since we appointed a careers advisor last year, children at the school have started to gain an understanding and we’re starting to raise aspirations at a ground level.”
Comments from the pupils included: “The Class of 2023 residential was great: I didn’t think I wanted to go to uni but it got me thinking about what I want to do and where I want to go in life. I think it did the same for a lot of other people – it was really inspirational and a great experience”; and “The subject taster sessions gave us a great insight into what it would be like to study at university or college. It was really interesting to find out how science subjects are taught and dealt with in a university setting.”
Alex Cooper, a Leeds Beckett student ambassador who graduated this month with a BA (Hons) degree in Business Management, commented: “The highlight of the residential for me was the sports evening. I really enjoyed participating in the tag rugby and seeing the avid involvement of the children. I also enjoyed working on the Dragon's Den task. One of the boys in my group was so determined to get through to the next round; it was really inspiring to see him want to do so well and put so much effort in to do so.
“I think that the young people gained a real insight into what different institutions have to offer and the opportunities available to them. I think that the inclusiveness of the event made higher education feel accessible and possible for the young people involved. I hope that the event inspired them to think about their future and the abundance of paths available for them to investigate.”
Leeds Beckett student ambassador, Ella Oldroyd, who graduated this month with a BSc (Hons) Sport, Physical Activity and Health degree, added: “My main highlight was getting to know my wonderful group from Carlton Bolling College. The girls were unbelievably switched on and the ambition they had for their futures was inspiring to watch from start to finish. None of my group knew exactly what they wanted to do in the future but they knew they wanted to make a difference so, no matter the workshop was, they were all fully engaged, asking questions and really getting the most out of the experience which has helped them to eliminate/research into new areas where they think their futures may lie.
“I think it has given them the inspiration and encouragement needed to pursue further education as they have been able to see first-hand that it is very achievable for them and have been able to have a taste of what it might be like.”
The three days were themed in order to reflect a higher education student’s journey: making informed decisions about courses, sampling university and college-level subjects in taster sessions, and employability and graduation. The theme of the student journey was reinforced by a bespoke ‘Class of 2023’ workbook designed by Kyle Prior, a student at Leeds College of Art.
On the second day, the pupils had the opportunity to sample subjects including: Forensic Science, Law, Social Work, Media Make Up and Special Effects, Civil Engineering, Photography, Textiles and Marketing. The employability and graduation events took place at Wakefield College’s Advanced Skills and Innovation Centre.
The full list of schools taking part was: Airedale Academy (Wakefield), Appleton Academy (Bradford), Bishop Young Academy (formerly David Young Academy, Leeds), Bradford Academy, Carlton Bolling College (Bradford), Castleford Academy, Cathedral Academy (Wakefield), Dixons Trinity Academy (Bradford), Featherstone Academy (Wakefield), Immanuel College (Bradford), Leeds 14+ Apprenticeship Academy (Leeds City College), Leeds West Academy, and Westborough High School (Dewsbury).