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Norfolk Scholars celebrate success

Richard Gould, Chief Executive of Villiers Park with Mike Baker Scholar of the Year and first student to graduate from the programme, Henry Goldsmith (Y13) from Ormiston Victory Academy and the Lord Mayor of Norwich Councillor David Fullman. Picture by Andi Sapey

The achievements of more than 100 academically-able pupils from areas with low participation rates in higher education were recognised in an End of Year Celebration at the University of East Anglia (UEA) on Wednesday 28 June.

The Year 10-13 students, from seven local schools, are all members of the Scholars Programme, run by UEA and Villiers Park Educational Trust near Cambridge, which is designed to help build participants’ skills, confidence and aspirations and encourage them to move on to higher education.

“Programmes such as this play an important part in helping pupils overcome the hurdles that so often prevent them from fulfilling their potential,” said Laura Anderson, Programme Manager with UEA’s Outreach team. “They are 2.5 times less likely to enter higher education than pupils from the most advantaged backgrounds, so this is all about ensuring that young people’s futures are determined by their ambitions and ability, not by their background.”

A new report published on 29 June by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) underlines the good progress universities and colleges are making in widening access to higher education. From 2015-16, they collectively invested £725.2 million into targeted programmes and have made advances against more than 80% of their targets. Of the eight set, which span all groups from disabled to mature students, UEA has met or exceeded seven and is making progress on the eighth.

According to the Government’s Indices of Deprivation study, Norwich ranked 323rd out of 324 local authorities for social mobility and Great Yarmouth is one of the 20 lowest-ranked local authority districts. Nationally, in 2014/2015, just 33% of students who are eligible for free school meals achieved five or more A*- C grades at GCSE (including English and Maths), compared with 61% of all state-school students and 65% of all pupils.

“The Scholars Programme is just one of the ways that UEA is working to address these issues,” said Laura. “By working with the Scholars’ schools and families, we provide support ranging from individual mentoring to residential workshops. The evidence of its success is that 70% of our Scholars have applied for university and almost all are planning to move into higher education. And the impact reaches their fellow students too, with the Scholars often becoming catalysts for change in their schools.”

The End of Year Celebration was attended by the Scholars and their families, and the Lord Mayor of Norwich was also there to recognise their success. One pupil from each year was named Mike Baker Scholar of the Year - Callum Davenport (Y10) Hellesdon High School, Busranur Serin (Y11) Hellesdon High School, Skye Manzie (Y12) City of Norwich School and Henry Goldsmith (Y13) Ormiston Victory Academy.

“I feel as if the programme has been extremely beneficial for me and has helped me to improve on balancing my workload,” said Jarra Bardsley, a Year 12 Scholar from the Thetford Academy. Gabrielle Weyer, a Year 13 Scholar from Open Academy, added: “I have found mentoring sessions about university useful because mentoring has helped me understand more about university, apply and write a personal statement.”

“It was wonderful to see so many Scholars, their families, staff from our partner schools as well as the UEA and Villiers Park teams attending this truly celebratory event,” said Jo Gurvidi, Programme Director, Villiers Park Educational Trust. “This year marks the first cohort of Scholars to graduate from the Norfolk Scholars Programme – one of seven which we run around the country – and we are very proud of their achievements and the impact our programme has had on transforming the lives of these hard-working and ambitious students.  We wish them every success for the future and look forward to continuing to work with Norfolk Scholars for years to come.”

Caption: Richard Gould, Chief Executive of Villiers Park with Mike Baker Scholar of the Year and the first student to graduate from the programme, Henry Goldsmith (Y13) from Ormiston Victory Academy and the Lord Mayor of Norwich Councillor David Fullman. Picture by Andi Sapey