New programme helps South Tyneside students open door to university

A new programmed has been implemented to help students at a South Tyneside school and sixth form gain better access to university.

The Saints Scholars programme has been funded by the Community Foundation and implemented at St. Wilfrid’s RC College in South Shields to assist students to gain aspirations of going to university.

The programme was piloted by Rosanne Hume, Head of Spanish at St Wilfrid’s and now Assistant Vice Principal at Castle View Enterprise Academy, in Sunderland.

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The Saints Scholars programme began with a residential launch event at Durham University to introduce students from Year 9 and Year 10 cohorts to the concept of university-level study.

St Wilfrid’s RC College, South Shields.

The students were chosen with a holistic approach, looking at in-school assessment data, pastoral team referrals and form teacher recommendations.

Pupils then took part in a six-week lecture series in which staff presented on a range of academic topics including astrophysics, criminology, law, sociology and politics. Students were required to write a 1,000 assignment at the end of the project, using the guidance on essay writing.

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Finally, a celebration event took place in which pupils visited Newcastle University for a guided tour and took part in a range of activities including a visit to the Hancock museum and restaurant.

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The Saint Scholars programme helped students develop key university readiness skills, including critical thinking and meta-cognition. Programme graduates are almost twice as likely to progress to highly-selective universities according to studies from UCAS.

Rosanna said: “Our aim was to raise aspirations through fomenting the belief that “University is an avenue for me and this is how I get there”.

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"We wanted to remove some of the cultural and societal stigmas that are often cited as barriers for disadvantaged children in terms of their participation in further education and we built lasting relationships with local institutions and organisations to help raise aspirations for cohorts of students in the future too.”

“The programme addressed challenges faced by pupils in South Tyneside, where the rise in child poverty inevitably had a knock-on effect for students in terms of their access to cultural opportunities.”

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Students who took part in the programme noted they now felt more optimistic about the costs of University.