In October 2022, The Queen’s College launched its new partnership with The Access Project in four schools across the North West – two in Lancashire (Darwen Vale High School and Darwen Aldridge Community Academy) and two in Cumbria (Workington Academy and The Whitehaven Academy).

As we near the end of the partnership’s first year, we have many positive stories to tell about the 160 students that have been supported across the four schools.

Unfortunately, we will also be losing one of our school partners, Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, in Lancashire in July. The school’s students have had life-changing support, however, the school has also faced very tough choices, given rising costs and other pressures beyond their control. They have therefore decided to withdraw from the programme, although they have valued the partnership with TAP, and the door is open for them to re-join in the future.

The partnership will still be supporting the same number of students in the next academic year (23/24) with the other Lancashire school, Darwen Vale High School, agreeing to a double programme of support, meaning we will work with 80 students in one school, and 160 in total across the entire North West.

A celebration event in July will be held to mark a year of positive impact in Darwen. The Queen’s College will be there along with The Access Project to celebrate.

Below are some outcomes achieved by the partnership across the North West this year.

Year 13 university firm and insurance choices

Our Year 13s have now made their firm and insurance choices for university. We have some real successes within those, including:

West Coast Sixth Form, Cumbria:

  • Two students with a contextual Medicine offer (ABB) at the University of Lancaster.
  • A student with 4 out of 5 applications to Medicine accepted.
  • Students choosing top third universities in the North rather than their nearer non-selective universities.

Darwen Aldridge Community Academy:

  • Students with firm offers from University of Cambridge (Natural Sciences), University of Edinburgh (Medicine) and Durham University (Physics with Astrophysics).

Super curricular activities and enrichment

Our Year 12s are working on super curricular enrichment and are keen to get involved in the opportunities we share with them. Our younger students also have their sights set on opportunities in the sector. Some of the support students have signed up to includes:

  • A Y12 student in Cumbria who has been accepted on the UNIQ programme and University of Durham’s support programme.
  • A Y12 student in Darwen completing the Sutton Trust Summer School this year.
  • Two Y12 students in Cumbria completing Realising Opportunities. Realising opportunities is a collaboration of leading research intensive universities to widen access. It is a structured programme of interventions designed to ensure they can be successful in their education and future career. Students apply for the opportunity through one of the universities.
  • A Y11 student in Cumbria accepted Christ College, Cambridge’s LPN summer school. LPN stands for low progression neighbourhood.  Each year Christ’s College, Cambridge works in collaboration with Sidney Sussex and Murray Edwards Colleges to run an August summer school for Year 11 in England/Wales aimed at students who live in areas of low participation to higher education.
  • Two Y11 students from Darwen accepted into Lancaster’s School of Mathematics for onward study.

Tutorial support

It has been wonderful to see the Queen’s community of students, Old Members and staff join together to support this programme through tutorial support. Headline stats from The Queen’s College volunteers this year. We have seen 463 hours of tutorial support, with 443 tutorials given. There were 26 tutees taught by members from the Queen’s community, with some of the current members and Old Members tutoring more than one young person each. 79% of our students in the North West have had 1 or more tutorials – that’s higher than any of The Access Project’s other established regions.

Nearly 30 students in the North West have already completed their target number of tutorials (20 tutorials) and even gone beyond it. There are many more on track to hit tutorial targets by the end of the academic year. One student at The Whitehaven Academy, Cumbria has attended over 30 tutorials.

We have had some lovely feedback from our students regarding their tutorials, including this quotation from our Cumbrian student who has tutorials with Lauren Shields from the Queen’s College (a volunteer tutor):

Lauren has been so amazing, she’s listened to everything I’ve asked and responded to all my silly questions without any judgment, I’ve never dreaded a tutorial because I feel so comfortable making mistakes knowing she will help me out. The tutorials have been so beneficial to my studies and I really appreciate Lauren continuing with them during my exam period because they make me feel so much better!! She’s the best.

Tutors have also shared their experiences of tutoring our students in the North West:

I’ve absolutely loved the experience of tutoring this year and would definitely be interested in a new pairing in September. Many thanks to you and the team for helping make volunteering with TAP such a positive experience.

(She) has been an absolute pleasure to tutor – regularly attending sessions, keeping me informed of changes and really engaging with the subject. I wish her every success in the exams!

I informed my student I was going on holiday and we may need to start our tutorials after that. (She) is very effective. I set off tomorrow morning, and she has booked a tutorial at 16:30 today! She does impress me.

Mentoring support

Our University Access Officers, (The Access Project’s mentors), Sam and Ellie are currently supporting Y12s with their UCAS personal statements. Y10 are receiving provision around making the correct A level choices – the real value of working with students at the younger end is helping them to make the right choices from the start, before they unwittingly narrow their options.

The partnership and how to volunteer

The Queen’s College is funding the programmes with £137k per annum from 2022-25. The Access Project could not have worked with these students in the North West without The Queen’s College support. The partnership is looking at trips from the schools’ students to The Queen’s College during 23/24 so they experience life at the college. If you are interested in volunteering as an online tutor for one of our students please apply here.

Photo: BerndBrueggemann