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Kent Academies Network students get top uni offers

The scheme supports bright students from underprivileged backgrounds into university

Posted by Hannah Vickers | May 26, 2017 | Teaching

Kent Academies Network (KAN) is celebrating the success of its first group of students to graduate from the first multi-school summer school programme in the UK, the Academies Partnership Programme (APP). Nine students have received UCAS offers from top universities including the University of Exeter and London School of Economics

The programme is designed to help bright, young people from underrepresented backgrounds progress to university. This summer sees the first cohort graduate from the four-year programme and, of the 11 students, nine have received university offers and one is taking a gap year. Eight of these will be the first of their families to go to university, achieving the main objective of the APP: improving social mobility by widening access to top universities as part of a University Access Programme. 

The network started piloting the four-year programme in October 2012 after being approached by the Accelerate and Access Foundation (AAF) and the Sutton Trust. This was in light of research from the Sutton Trust, which highlighted that pupils from the poorest fifth of a neighbourhood are 10 times less likely to go to a Russell Group university than their wealthier peers. The AAF has structured and fully funded the programme to date. Since then, the programme has accepted 12-15 students per year from the six academy schools within the KAN. Founded on collaboration between independent and state schools and supported through mentoring from Fitzwilliam College and Queens’ College, Cambridge, and Balliol College, Oxford, the network includes the following institutions together with their independent school sponsors: 

Each of the academies has had a low rate of progression onto higher education and serve some of Kent’s most socially deprived areas. The six academies identify bright Year 9 students to apply for a place on the programme and successful applicants are selected based on a combination of their academic potential and socioeconomic need, e.g. Pupil Premium, Free School Meals or first generation to go to university. In order to raise their aspirations and support them through their GCSEs and A-Levels to realise their ambitions, the pupils benefit from two residential courses for each of the four years (during the Easter and Summer holidays) and include talks from motivational speakers and year-round mentoring from Russell Group undergraduates, together with advice on university applications and trips to universities and cultural sites. The residential weeks are hosted by Sevenoaks School and Tonbridge School, which provide boarding facilities, and teachers, speakers and content are provided by teachers and contacts at all of the schools involved.

A member of the 2013 cohort, Ella from Tunbridge Wells, comments on the programme: “My experience on the programme has enabled me to develop a well-rounded approach to my studies through introducing me to the ways of university life and essential written and verbal skills. I exceeded the predicted grades for my GCSEs, three B’s and seven C’s, and am proud to have achieved 11 A*- B grades. Since joining the scheme, I feel I have a much greater knowledge of higher education and am one step closer to getting there.”

From her offers, Ella has selected Loughborough University to read Politics and Economics. 

There are undoubtedly under-represented groups within the leading universities and the scheme and support of KAN within communities like ours is invaluable as it is opening doors for students from underprivileged backgrounds - Kelly Anderson, mother of Kian, a Year 10 student from Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey

Kelly Anderson, mother of Kian, a Year 10 student from Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, said: “The KAN University Access scheme is an absolutely wonderful programme. We are so grateful to all involved for opening this opportunity for Kian and so excited to see how it will impact on his future. There are undoubtedly under-represented groups within the leading universities and the scheme and support of KAN within communities like ours is invaluable as it is opening doors for students from underprivileged backgrounds. Huge thanks to all involved both at Oasis and within KAN, who are working so hard to improve outcomes for our children and have them reach their full potential.”

Commenting on the success of the programme, Theresa Homewood, Senior Deputy Head at Sevenoaks School, and Course Director, said: “The programme’s success is very much down to the time and effort put in by a cross-sector partnership of all the schools and academies involved, the individual teachers, speakers and mentors who have given up their free time to support the programme together with Fitzwilliam College and Queens’ College, Cambridge, and Balliol College, Oxford. The residential courses hosted at the partner schools (Sevenoaks and Tonbridge) are integral to the success - not only does the academic activity enable students to strengthen their knowledge of core subjects, develop their debate, research and critical thinking skills; but it allows the students to spend time with like-minded peers, a vital part of raising aspirations. 

Not only is this an achievement for the KAN, by proving the impact that pooling our collective resources can have on these pupils’ futures, but it is also a big step towards breaking socioeconomic barriers to higher education by opening up opportunities - Theresa Homewood, Senior Deputy Head at Sevenoaks School, and Course Director

“We’re delighted to see the students flourish, which is testament to the value of the programme and the influence it has on individuals’ futures. We are also thrilled that our Kent network is leading the way and a second programme seed funded by the AAF, United Access, has been modelled on our success. Not only is this an achievement for the KAN, by proving the impact that pooling our collective resources can have on these pupils’ futures, but it is also a big step towards breaking socioeconomic barriers to higher education by opening up opportunities.” 

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