On the day of Uni Connect London Virtual Conference for Teachers and Advisers – 22nd June 2020

July 9, 2020

Long before ‘life as we know it’ had a rather dramatic overhaul, Aim Higher London and AccessHE were busy planning an in person CPD conference for teachers and career’s advisers across the Capital. Undeterred by the pandemic, we pressed ahead and adapted our plans to instead host an online CPD conference, under the theme of ‘Innovating Through Collaborative Partnership’.

Over 150 teachers and career’s advisers tuned in to hear workshops from the Career’s and Enterprise Company, the OfS, the Student Loans Company, and five of London’s top Universities.

The conference began with key note speeches Kirsty Johnson, Access & Participation Manager at OfS Uni Connect, Dr Richard Boffey, Deputy Head of AccessHE, Dr Debra Ibbotson, Uni Connect Outreach Hub Manager, and Rachel Green, Education Manager (East) of the Careers & Enterprise Company. The resounding theme of the key notes was the wealth of opportunity there is for organisations in London to collaborate and work together, to overcome the barriers that Covid poses to education, by ‘innovating through collaborative partnership’.

Following the keynotes, delegates had the opportunity to choose from one of four parallel workshops including; ‘Challenges of The Gatsby Benchmarks’, ‘Building effective partnerships’, and ‘Smooth transitions: how to prepare year 13s for life beyond school while in lockdown’. We all broke off into virtual breakout rooms to our respective workshops. Led by the CEC company, Rachel Green provided delegates with tips and advice on how schools can continue meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks during lockdown and while many students are working remotely. Sophia Mousiledes from University of East London described how schools and universities can benefit from sustained and effective partnerships, through flexibility and establishing expectations early on. Chace Community School and Poppy Houdghton from Queen Mary University London talked about practical ways to support year 13s as they transition from school, particularly within a Covid 19 context and how to maintain communication and support for those students.

After a short coffee break, delegates jumped into the second workshop with four to choose from, including; ‘Attainment raising and Covid-19’ ‘Higher and Degree Apprenticeships: what you need to know’, ‘Preparing a personal statement’ and ‘Financial Support’. Kiran Sandhu from Brunel University London talked about attainment raising initiatives, and the relevance of this activity in a Covid context. Janet Rowson from University of West London, and Bradley Davis from Amazing Apprenticeships shared tips on how career’s advisers and teachers can support students to apply for degree apprenticeships, providing an overview of the different types of degree apprenticeships available, and where to find them. The Student Loans Company delivered a workshop on student finance, including support such as bursaries and hardship funds, and support for specific groups. Bev Pullen from the University of Roehampton advised teachers on how to support students to reference activities they may have been involved with during lockdown, within a personal statement.

The event concluded with a roundup of learnings, and a call to action for universities, schools and third party organisations to continue collaborating together, to mitigate the impact of Covid – 19 on education, and to provide opportunities to encourage the best outcomes for young people. Teachers and career’s advisers expressed how valuable they found the workshops and keynotes. Following the success of the event, we’re really looking forward to hosting an in-person CPD conference in 2021.