Outreach with Alternative Providers: AccessHE’s PRU Toolkit

May 24, 2022, by Beth Hayden, Uni Connect Outreach Coordinator at AccessHE

Earlier this year, AccessHE received funding to deliver AccessE3, a four-week intensive creative programme for all students at a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Tower Hamlets. The programme consisted of 21 workshops delivered by over 15 creative, HE and community partners. It was a mammoth task to develop, deliver and organise, but all paid off when it came to the end-of-project exhibition celebrating the creations and achievements of the students, many of whom were positively transformed by end of the programme. 

As the most deprived borough in London, with 56% of children living in poverty, Tower Hamlets is in real need of projects like AccessE3. In schools, educational outcomes for FSM-eligible, White, Bangladeshi and male students are poor. These have only been exaggerated by the pandemic, and the additional pressures this has placed on schools and staff. The AccessE3 programme used creativity to enhance confidence and communication in young participants – a powerful tool that has directly supported their transitions back into mainstream education, where many more opportunities will be open to them now and in the future. 


Without proper planning, this project could not have delivered the positive impact it ultimately did. To any HE practitioner hoping to work with non-mainstream schools – such as PRUs – on outreach programmes, here are a few do’s and don’ts from an organisation with experience. Our full toolkit will be published in early June. Order your copy here.

1. DO your research

To support students in alternative provision, it takes a village. Social workers, youth workers, parents, carers, former schools, counsellors and SEN specialists all work together to support every child. Take the time to understand their roles and how the school works. This will be incredibly valuable when it comes to realizing how you will achieve your outcomes.

2. DON’T have overly high expectations

Remember, this isn’t your typical school! Some days, just turning up is an achievement for the students. Their extenuating circumstances mean that it will take longer to build momentum for activities. Be realistic.

3. DO make it personal

If you want a successful programme, you’ve got to have support from the students. Therefore, your programme, and the partners involved in delivering it, need to relate to their needs and circumstances. Get creative when it comes to sourcing role models for the students.

4. DON’T take it personal

Everyone has good days and bad days. Some days, things won’t go the way you want, and challenging situations may come about. It’s not your fault. Remind yourself of the positivity you are bringing to the school day.

5. DO sign up for a copy of the full toolkit if you want your programme to be as effective as ours.

100% of students wanted to do our project again. Want to learn how? Fill out the form to receive a copy of the toolkit in early June.