City’s WP Team have been working with The Elmgreen School in Lambeth to deliver a targeted tutoring programme specifically to support young Black Caribbean students.
This involves City students tutoring GCSE Maths and English to Year 10 and 11 pupils in small groups online and in some cases 1-2-1 tutoring. It has also involved some trips to the university campus to deliver Maths Revision Days – which is how the programme initially started.
As a Widening Participation tutor who has been involved in this project, I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Mr Rust and Mr McIntosh of The Elmgreen School and Leanne Allen of the Widening Participation Team, who has been coordinating and overseeing this programme, working closely alongside the school.
Why did this targeted tutoring programme at Elmgreen start?
Within a year of joining Elm Green, Mr McIntosh’s role involved overseeing the achievement of Black Caribbean students. Mr McIntosh says it is “an issue where there aren’t any real answers or quick solutions. I was alerted to the Widening Participation programme at City. Essentially, we are trying to find what we can do to improve aspirations, broaden their horizons and address the multitude of factors, one by one, that are affecting the Black Caribbean students and deconstruct these issues”.
Why is it important for us to run this programme?
Mr Rust can see first-hand how the students are growing and developing, gaining transferable skills by meeting twice a week with university students to take part in formal tutoring.
Leanne adds to this that as a department widening accessing to higher education, the programme provides some form of solution as, from the university’s outlook, “the programme is addressing how we can encourage Caribbean students into the university” as well as the idea of university being “planted in their minds and showing to them it is not unattainable. It can be achieved and organically”.
Mr McIntosh says it’s the consistency that’s important; “We are not only changing the paradigm. We are establishing the culture – a culture of excellence. Everyone goes home at the end of the day but these students stay behind, do extra work, extend on their day”. This consistent effort pushes their work ethic in the right direction.
It’s also the soft lessons and skills that make this programme special for the students. Mr McIntosh adds:
“It’s not just hard lessons. They learn soft lessons such as being on time, professionalism, making impressions, interacting with our networks outside of our circle and comfort zone, such as friends and peers, becoming technology literate and being able to navigate software.”
How do the students benefit from it?
Mr Rust says that “our programme definitely normalises further education. They talk to the tutors about what subjects they are interested in, meeting with university students at least once a week. These sessions are serving a purpose; the earlier you normalise it, it changes the code of way, the conduct of life”.
What highlights have there been for you since it has been running?
Leanne says it’s the feedback from the tutors; “how they speak so highly and positively and the kind of relationships they are building with the students they are working with and seeing how focussed and invested the school students are”.
For Mr McIntosh one of his highlights is the growth and development he sees in the students; talking about a one student he mentions “their confidence gained from attending this session; confidence breeds competence – so the confidence she has gained and overcoming the anxiety and exam preparation – she now feels she is in a better position to be sitting an exam than ever before”. It’s also the individual wins! Overhearing students tell their tutor “Oh Miss, thank you for last week, it actually helped in our exam and it went well” and they look forward to the session too.
One highlight of this programme for Mr Rust was seeing a student proactively seek out careers advice by speaking to Leanne and Mr McIntosh. Mr Rust says “the student left the online meeting room looking forward” and feeling hopeful thinking about what to do in the future.
What else do you think we could do to support these students?
Both Mr McIntosh and Mr Rust are keen to branch out further into the other subjects, they feel it is in a good, smooth place right now but potentially in the long-term we could branch out with the core subjects such as science and perhaps with a long-term goal of developing a computer science and business programme.
Mr Rust adds that it “would be nice to have a formalised pathway to guide the students; what to expect, the next steps” as well as potential hour-long academic skills sessions, introducing feedback sheets to compliment the tutoring to aid and encourage the students so they can recognise their achievements and be able to identify what they need to focus on more.
Leanne suggested launching a potential mentoring scheme for the students who have progressed from their GCSEs and transitioned into Year 12. “Every term we can track their progress, award the students at the end of the programme and celebrate with a mini graduation”.
During the interview, Mr Rust shared a profound statement that I wish to conclude with:
“This is the start of a bigger programme, addressing the historic issue, addressing the gaps in opportunity and attainment. The idea of a targeted approach rather than a blanket approach shows the need for Widening Participation and institutes like City to address that.”