Welcome to our fifth and final post from our Academies Show 2018 coverage. The last event of the day, both for us and the entire conference, gave the audience an insight into the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP). The NCOP looks at areas of the UK with particularly low progression rates from secondary to higher education to try and understand why that is the case and what can be done to encourage more children from those areas to consider higher education. The NCOP describes its work as aiming “to rapidly increase the number of young people from underrepresented groups who go into higher education.” 

The two speakers for this final conference were Jenny Ann, the NCOP programme manager from the newly formed Office for Students, and Mike Garnock-Jones, director Higher Education Progression Partnership (HEPP). Ms Ann previously worked for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (one of the bodies that has been absorbed into the Office for Students); prior to becoming the HEPP direction, Mr Warnock-Jones worked as a teacher and as a director for Sheffield City Council before becoming a school governor. 

Ms Ann began the presentation with a short introduction to the NCOP, explaining that part of the OfS’ responsibility was to create a “social mobility action plan that results in everyone having the opportunity to succeed.” The NCOP, initially created by HEFCE, looks to partner secondary and tertiary education institutions, with the tertiary institution then providing outreach programmes. However, not every school across the UK faces similar challenges in encouraging their pupils to higher levels of learning; Ms Ann said: “location has a significant impact on progression through to higher education.” Indeed, a study from HEFCE showed affluent areas of the UK had almost 100% progression rates to higher education from secondary level education, while others dipped to less than 20%: “disparity between cities led to the formation of the NCOP.”  

Following Ms Ann’s introduction on the creation of the NCOP was Mr Warnock-Jones. The second half of the presentation began with a video from the Higher Education Progression Partnership South Yorkshire (HEPPSY+) in which Seetal Jassal, Widening Participation and Outreach Coordinator for the University of Sheffield, explained the benefits of HEPPSY+: “it’s the opportunity to reach hard to engage young people; young people who have multiple barriers to learning and who may not have considered higher education.” 

Mr Warnock-Jones started with a challenge to the audience, asking them what links they had with higher education. Just as HE providers are responsible for delivering outreach programmes, secondary schools and academies are, likewise, responsible for identifying if their students’ progression rates are in need of attention and creating partnerships to lower the barriers to entry.  

For many schools, those barriers to entry begin at home, specifically because higher education is a path not considered by previous generations: “Parents significantly influence children’s’ decisions regarding higher education,” said Mr Warnock-Jones, urging those audience members from secondary education to include parents in their plans for HE outreach.  

Examples of plans being delivered by HEPPSY+ were then introduced – mobile classrooms that bring HE to schools, along with bringing “role models to talk about their experience of higher education.” Additionally, by working with HE partners, schools can “develop programmes around specific demographic groups…and challenge HE providers to support those groups.”  

The presentation ended with a final challenge to the audience: “How will you create a culture of HE in your school?” With help from programmes like HEPPSY+ and NCOP, secondary schools with low HE progression rates will systematically address their students’ barriers to entry by demonstrating, to both students and parents, that higher education is an option worth considering.  

Looking for more from our Academies Show 2018 coverage? Check out the event introduction post. Interested in understanding more about the various HE paths open to students? Get in touch with our course advisors today for more information or keep up to date with UKCBC news by subscribing to our newsletters. 

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