‘Weathering the storm for the learner’ Identifying a network of key people and their role in supporting the learner

Pat Bailey, Deputy Vice Chancellor welcomed delegates to the conference and to London South Bank University. The Deputy Vice Chancellor set the tone for the day creating an informal atmosphere in which delegates were encouraged to participate, collaborate and network. He urged delegates to identify two key points they had learnt and identify two new contacts to follow up with.

Delegates then heard from Suzanne Marchment, Director Aimhigher London South who presented the Aimhigher Annual report, key trends for 2015-16 which highlighted: the network targets the right learners, the programme meets the needs of its learners, the programme benefits those with no parental experience of HE and participants apply to member universities.

Catherine Fenwick, also Director of the partnership, then set the scene identifying the impact the challenging times of academisation, area reviews, the HE Education and Research bill (not to mention Brexit and the change of government) have had on the education landscape. What effect this has on the learners and the role key adults play in providing stability for them.

Delegates then participated in three discussion sessions:

  • The role of the student ambassador: developing mutual capacity through understanding the needs of different groups
  • The role of parents, carers and families: identifying their aspirations for learners and developing their knowledge of higher education
  • The role of the adviser; raising awareness of the tools that are available to make the most of university outreach and support.

Key project leads from each area used case studies to illustrate what the partnership has developed and achievements to date. Delegates were encouraged to discuss how the work could best be disseminated, enhanced, replicated and/or sustained.   Key discussions centred around:

  • replicating the PRU model to train student ambassadors/mentors appropriately to work with ‘at risk of exclusion’ students in mainstream schools;
  • how best to work with ‘hard to reach’ parents and carers;
  • ensuring the resources (such as websites and planning tools) are disseminated and used throughout partner institutions.

The conference concluded with a brief overview of how partner universities are working with key adults across the partnership. Kingston University has piloted a ‘Parent ambassador’ programme recruiting parents of student ambassadors to accompany WP staff and student ambassadors to parents evenings in schools, London South Bank are working closely with employers to develop Degree Apprenticeships in STEM.

Presentations from the day:

Aimhigher annual report, key trends 2015-16

Identifying the issues for the learner and who is best placed to support them, Catherine Fenwick

Case study 1 – working with special schools, Tony Mcleod

Case study 2 HE champions, LAC mentoring programme, Rabeya Chowdhury

Case study 1 – Working with parents and families Research Project, Kate Byford

Case study 2 – Enhancing  the HE message by working with parents  and developing the Aimhigher  Parents’ website as a source of information, Susan Mueller

Case study 2  – the Disability Directory, Hazel Mcneill

Case study 1  –  HE in London Planning tool, Camilla Mount