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Raising aspirations- help!!

(58 Posts)
susannahmoodie Thu 12-Feb-15 19:31:11

I work in a comprehensive school in the north of England. It has a large sixth form. Our results are excellent, but we typically get 1/2 Oxbridge candidates a year, and a similar amount of medics.

Most of our students
go to uni but most to the local ex-poly, even though we have two RG unis on our doorstep.

Sadly many of our students still have stereotypical notions of RG unis or Oxbridge as being 'not for them' worrying that they wouldn't 'fit in', etc, and they don't apply even though their grades would get them there.

I'd like to set up a programme of visiting speakers who could run workshops with students from y10 onwards to raise their aspirations and help prepare them for the types of dialogue they would encounter at top unis.

So far I have a consultant anaesthetist, and a lawyer and Oxford graduate, but I was thinking of how I could expand this programme- what sorts of professions/people do you think I could get in?

My ideas were:

Local police commissioner
Chemical engineer?

A bit lacking in arts based topics though....?

Basically I want to help our students compete with those from private schools who might be used to meeting these types of people in their lives anyway braces self for accusations of social engineering

Would love to hear your ideas!

JanineStHubbins Thu 12-Feb-15 19:35:07

I'd suggest that you get in touch with your local uni. If it's anywhere like the one I work at (Northern RG), it will have an extensive Widening Participation programme designed to reach out to under-represented students. Uni visits can be really helpful for 1st generation potential applicants, seeing the campus, doing some taster academic work and meeting 'normal' students.

titchy Thu 12-Feb-15 20:04:35

Agree with pp - if you've got two on your doorstep get in touch - and get your kids to their events!

susannahmoodie Thu 12-Feb-15 20:13:23

Yes we do some of that already, but the numbers of applicants to RG unis aren't going up really. It might be a case of too little too late- some students won't have heard of the phrase 'Russell group" until yr12 when they start to look into UCAS. I think what I'm looking for is more of an in-house programme to complement the widening access schemes which starts earlier, say in y10.

Transporter Thu 12-Feb-15 20:45:35

How about getting in some actual uni students. Maybe some who are not the perfect straight A confident stereotype.

JanineStHubbins Thu 12-Feb-15 20:57:45

Our WP scheme covers year 10s as well.

Scoobyblue Thu 12-Feb-15 21:03:44

To add to your list of visiting speakers:
Accountant or finance professional

ragged Thu 12-Feb-15 21:47:03

Maybe you need to move closer to what they already see as achievable, so if they tend to go study X at local poly, get a person in who is a high achiever at X and happened to attend a Uni you approve of.

titchy Thu 12-Feb-15 22:12:16

Our school does HE evenings for parents of year 9s as part of the option process, and the RG concept is rolled out then.

But I would imagine your local universities would do stuff for year 10s - they certainly should do!

senua Thu 12-Feb-15 22:25:43

Sadly many of our students still have stereotypical notions of RG unis or Oxbridge as being 'not for them' worrying that they wouldn't 'fit in', etc, and they don't apply even though their grades would get them there.

How about coming at it from a different angle. Who do they think does go to RG Universities? Can you arrange contact with these mythical creatures - ?debating competitions etc - so your pupils can work out for themselves that they are as good as any other.

MillyMollyMama Fri 13-Feb-15 00:09:37

Lawyers, any form of Chartered Engineer, HR Executive, PR Executive, Broadcast journalist etc might help. Make sure your entrepreneur actually went to university. Plenty didn't . I think developing links with your RG universities is the way to go. These are also students who are risk averse and don't like debt which is also limiting their horizons. Their parents are risk averse too. You will need to get across why it is better to try for the best university you can get to.

I was livid that, when I took my DN along with her parents to look around Oxford recently,my BIL told my DN that this sort of place wasn't for her. She is very bright. Lack of ambition is deeply entrenched in some families and her school has contacts with the local ex poly. My sister says it's on the up! Except that is nowhere near as good as the local RG University.

titchy Fri 13-Feb-15 09:18:20

You need a two pronged approach - your nearest RG universities' WP for year 10 (phone them!) as I and others have said, but you also need to get the parents onside as mmm demonstrates is needed. Our school starts this in year 8, so when university becomes a reality parents AND kids feel familiar enough with RG to not feel daunted by it.

Well done for trying to address this by the way!

Littleham Fri 13-Feb-15 09:48:34

My daughter was advised to be a bit more ambitious with her applications by her teacher at her comprehensive. Actually they were quite clever how they approached it, as she had no intention of aiming really high and we were a bit flummoxed about how far she got!

Some people in the school will probably be resistant to the whole idea. So you need success stories. Target the amenable children and parents first and then get them to spread the word. I'm starting to do that with the year below my daughter eg - if x from year 13 got an offer at a good university then so might y from year 12. You are not going to change it overnight.

I think the personal statements are important too. How about sessions after the exams where successful year 13's help the year 12's?

Interview skills and debating can be a real weakness so if you can do anything about those that would help.

Visiting speakers are a good idea, but I would also suggest inviting back people that attended your school and managed to get into university. Very powerful.

Littleham Fri 13-Feb-15 13:48:28

Be careful about who you put forward to Oxford though....

Long drawn out process, hyper competitive, stressful and no specific appointments for interview. Speed date interviews which can leave the unprepared or panicked a bit down.

Molio Fri 13-Feb-15 19:06:55

I would get those students out and into the unis OP. Any RG uni will gladly advise. Contact any access officer that's at a uni you want to target and get as aspirational as you can, with no holds barred. I'd disagree with Littleham and try to enthuse any kid with potential, while counselling caution. Your area will have a link college at Oxford - find out which it is. Twelve colleges have a special link to the North (Brasenose, Corpus, Keble, Magdalen, Mansfield, Oriel, Pembroke, Queen's, St Anne's. St Peter's, Trinity, Worcester) but you'd have to identify the one with a particular link to your LA. Not sure what Cambridge does on the link front, but it will no doubt do something equivalent. Then contact the outreach officer. That in itself would start the ball rolling. Kids often find talks by professionals as dull as ditchwater but take them down/ up/ across to the uni and you're far more likely to spark interest.

Littleham Fri 13-Feb-15 19:27:10

I'd disagree with Molio. Not worth it if it leads to panic, stress or long term problems. Anyone else fine.

TalkinPeace Fri 13-Feb-15 19:49:42

Talk to your local EBP
Talk to your local Chamber of Commerce
Talk to your local SETPoint
Find out who your local STEM Ambassadors are

The point is that Oxbridge is just one option.
Kids need to be willing to look at the course first and the venue after unlike the US system of course

There will be plenty of people working in industry within 40 miles of your school who went to higher education all over the world.

Engineers are particularly mobile : and less likely to be seen as "toffs" than many .
But prove that good careers come from excellence all over the country.

A sideways thought : find your local patent examiner and see if you have any good local people who make REAL stuff.

RandomFriend Fri 13-Feb-15 20:21:10

Your speaker series is a great idea. That is the kind of thing that very good schools do.

Are you going to get them to talk about their jobs? Their university experience? A specific aspect of their work?

The three that you already have lined up is a great start, good luck with finding others.

Molio Fri 13-Feb-15 21:48:17

Littleham there's nothing worse than schools dumbing down aspiration 'in case'. Lots of kids are just bored by 'speakers' unless the speakers are absolutely excellent at engaging with those in that age group and few are. Lots drone. It can be a big turn off, whereas the uni outreach people are experts and completely attuned. I think that for a school to attempt to judge who might suffer 'long term problems' by an application to a top uni is a very big ask. Bold is good and can produce real results whereas a timid approach sends a diffident message. Speakers are fine if they're a known quantity and can be relied on to enthuse, but won't do much without a multi pronged approach, involving direct contact with unis. It's entirely possible that 'long term problems' can be caused by under achieving as well as by disappointment with an aspirational application which fails, and managing expectation is just one part of what a good school sixth form should do.

TalkinPeace Fri 13-Feb-15 21:52:52

whereas the uni outreach people are experts and completely attuned.
the erroneous nature of your statement paid for my kitchen smile

Molio Fri 13-Feb-15 22:04:00

Sorry TP that's just mad. Haven't got a clue what you're on (again!).

I've had to sit through far too many dreary speakers for my liking, all very pleased with themselves but without a clue how to engage with teens. Whereas the top unis have really excellent people doing all sorts of good stuff. The OP was looking for helpful comments, not batty comments which no-one can comprehend. Has your DP told you something about uni outreach people which makes you dubious? First hand is probably better. As far as speakers go, if you rate a speaker driven agenda that much, then your list omits arts. Business stuff won't have universal appeal by any means.

twentyten Fri 13-Feb-15 22:12:29

Hi. Sounds really good to get speakers in. Have you come across inspiring the future? Database of industry contacts- I've done several sessions in schools. Good luck!

Molio Fri 13-Feb-15 22:18:25

Blimey is everyone hung up on industry? sad I mean, fine, up to a point LC, but what about humanities and arts, or are we going to stereotype the North?

AtiaoftheJulii Fri 13-Feb-15 22:18:38

I'm with Molio more on the encouraging everyone front - I don't think it's up to schools to be trying to decide who is psychologically fit to apply to a particular university. I think they should be encouraging everyone to aim as high as possible, and leave it up to the student and their family to work out whether they're up for it.

TalkinPeace Fri 13-Feb-15 22:24:15

My DH is a Uni outreach speaker.
And he knows more than any how utterly shit a lot of them are.
People who work well with highly motivated 20 year olds get eaten alive by a room full of 300 bored year 9's.

And from our 20 year experience of dealing with the whole outreach THANG,
STEM works a darned sight better than liberal arts
- as nobody needs a literary criticism degree,
but mech eng might just save the world

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