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College launches FutureMe project

Sally Dixon

Sunderland College is helping to launch a new project aimed at increasing the number of young people progressing to higher education.

The FutureMe initiative has been designed to engage with people who come from areas associated with low participation rates.

Despite positive changes, the North East still has one of the lowest higher education progression rates in the country for 18-year-olds. According to UCAS, in 2016 young people in the North East were 38 per cent less likely to enter higher education than those living in London.

Sunderland College is one of 29 universities and colleges in the region to be part of the North East Collaborative Outreach Programme (NECOP) set up to tackle this disparity.

And the launch of the FutureMe programme is the latest initiative – led by Newcastle University – to be created by the group in response to low participation figures in the region.

Sunderland College has already engaged with more than 550 students through the project, and from January will be launching its full FutureMe programme of activity which includes a student mentoring scheme, an ambassador programme, group sessions, tailored one-to-one work and masterclasses.

Sally Dixon, director of higher education, participation and skills at Sunderland College, said: “The launch of the FutureMe project at Sunderland College will benefit a large number of our 16 to 19-year-old students and we hope that as a result many of them will be able to embrace the opportunities that higher education can provide.  We have already started to hold events to support and inform our young people of the different pathways onto higher study and hope this will enhance the long-term opportunities for Sunderland’s young people.”

This targeted programme of activity and support will help young people understand how higher education can help them be successful in the future.

As well as aiming to make a rapid improvement in higher education progression rates in target areas, activity will also increase understanding on a regional level.

Following a recent day of FutureMe activities involving over 330 young people at Sandhill View Academy in Sunderland, teacher Anthony Blake said: “The two sessions that were delivered to my pupils were tailored to not only address the needs of the pupils in relation to exam preparation and preparing themselves for leaving school, but adapted to the requirements of the school itself.”

In addition to working with young people directly in schools and colleges, the www.futureme.ac.uk website has also been launched to help young people and their parents and carers to learn more about the higher education options available to them.

Lucy Backhurst, Newcastle University’s head of student recruitment and admissions and chair of NECOP, said: “Newcastle is delighted to be leading this exciting, innovative programme. It is driven by a strong, and dynamic partnership of universities, FE Colleges and schools, with the aim of signposting and supporting young people to achieve their goals. This is a brilliant opportunity to transform young people’s lives in the North East.”

NECOP is part of the Higher Education Council for England’s National Collaborative Outreach Programme and is one of 29 consortia working on the shared aim of increasing higher education progression rates for young people from underrepresented groups. Of the 29 consortia across England NECOP is one of the largest consortia both in terms of funding and reach with a grant of £7.7million to work across 92 target wards. These wards are areas identified as having low progression to higher education both overall and lower progression than would be expected given GCSE attainment levels. The young people residing in these wards are supported by all of our regional colleges and 108 schools across the region, and this is where NECOP work will be focused.

The 18 Further Education Colleges and Sixth Form Colleges working on NECOP have plans in place to work intensively with over 3000 young people before the end of December 2018. Alongside this, a team of staff based across the five universities in the region will aim to work with almost 4000 young people on regular basis by delivering a programme of intensive support in schools. Many more students will also be supported through individual events, talks and sessions.

As well as working to engage young people NECOP also has plans in place to support higher education progression in the North East by:

  • Developing support for teachers and advisers in relation to higher education options
  • Working with local communities to address issues to specific to them
  • Carrying out a research project to investigate the barriers North East students face in relation to higher education.


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