AccessHE Team Spotlight – October 2019

October 25, 2019

Welcome back to Team Spotlight, a light-hearted area of our monthly Connect e-bulletin (open to all – subscribe to it here) where you can discover who we are at AccessHE and what we’ve all been up to over the past month. 

In October, (check out our previous entry here and our introduction here) our Spotlight shone to reveal…

Ella (Uni Connect schools Officer): We have now launched in each of the Uni Connect schools we will be working with until Christmas and I hope that each student we work with regains a sense of possibility, that they feel free to explore their chosen topics and learn more about opportunities that they didn’t think were possible for themselves. May we all feel able to raise our hands and have the courage to share our thoughts and feelings with the rest of the class.

Let me paint a picture for how I’ve been helping students to do that this month…

“It’s 1.30pm in a classroom of six year olds. You, their teacher for the next hour, ask a question. Let the games begin.

The Thinker – this is a great choice if you haven’t been listening, if you can’t be bothered to think, or if in fact you have the answer but for whatever reason, don’t want to share this with the room. Simply tilt the head upwards and shift your gaze as though deep in thought. This move has two benefits. You can’t be told off for not trying because, evidently, you are thinking very hard. As such, 9 times out of 10, you won’t be asked for your answer because evidently, you haven’t arrived at your answer yet. A classic move used by adults and children alike.

The Anything Goes – this child knows not to shout out but wants to give the impression that if you don’t ask them for the answer, they will spontaneously combust. Expect arm flapping, full body motion and the audible evidence of their inner struggle to contain the answer. One arm is used to dramatically prop up the signalling hand to demonstrate that despite their dedication, if not selected they may not make it through the afternoon. The Anything Goes will be particularly mortified if you ask ‘The Thinker.’

The Soldier – this child is the progression of The Anything Goes. They have lived experience of having their name called out, not to have the opportunity to say the answer, but to be told to ‘sit properly.’ Never again. Careful attention is given to posture. The arm raised is held straight and tall, the chin and chest lifted in a mark of respect. A seasoned learner will tuck the remaining arm under the opposite arm pit, signalling to their teacher that as soon as they have been asked for the answer, they will resume their perfect position of sitting up straight with their arms folded. This move is most commonly used whilst attempting hypnosis through eye contact.

Fast forward ten years and bar one or two students who have become so accustomed to speaking in class they don’t even raise their hand, most students employ the use of ‘The Thinker,’ if anything at all. Getting an answer right in front of everyone else is no longer a desire and it’s even more undesirable if asked to share an opinion. How then, do we, as visitors of the school coax out the ambitions, career aspirations, fears and concerns of a class that don’t know us? This is where our temporary relationship with the students proves helpful.

If we can help students shake off the feeling that they should know what they are doing with their lives and enable them to share their true thoughts and feelings on what to do after school or college, only then can we best support them in their next steps.”

Richard (Deputy Head of AccessHE): We’re very lucky this year in that the office has felt as bustling as the streets of Bloomsbury, with new staff joining several of our divisions. In AccessHE, we welcomed Tayler and Geraldine to the Uni Connect team in mid-October, and they will be joined in a couple of weeks by Beth and Michelle, bringing our outreach hub team up to full capacity.

For me, a good deal of the last month has entailed preparing and delivering events. One of these was an HE experience day, delivered jointly with Waltham Forest Council for schools in that borough, at which we were very lucky to have two of our HEI members run sessions: the Courtauld Institute of Art and the University of East London. The sessions were both extremely well-received by the students and it was great to initiate what we hope will be an ongoing relationship with the Council centred around higher education outreach. More recently, AccessHE hosted 11 of its members for a series of papers and roundtable discussion on the issue of differential student outcomes in London. The event looked in particular at what can be done to support underrepresented learner groups and ensure that a positive student experience, encompassing high levels of attainment and progression into highly skilled employment, is enjoyed by all London learners. We look forward to continuing the conversation, and to launching some new AccessHE projects focussed on student success and progression. Watch this space!

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