Our Director of Programmes Laura Bruce shares what we’ve learnt from our rapid shift into online programme delivery as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

During the unprecedented times we find ourselves in, we are constantly surrounded by news of the immediate and potential future impact of COVID19. We don’t yet fully understand the implications for schools, the economy, job market, university admissions or apprenticeships. We do know, however, that the repercussions for the most disadvantaged young people are likely to be significant and long lasting

Working in social mobility, it is difficult to reconcile that the impact of years of hard work may be diminished, with the next generation of young people needing even more support, input and guidance to fulfil their potential. 

Now, more than ever, outreach activity is essential to supporting young people through this crisis and ensuring there is fair access to future opportunities, whatever they may be. Yet our ability to deliver programmes, as we know them, has been obliterated in a very short space of time. 

Finding a solution  

Personally, I have found encouragement in this pandemic through the hard work, commitment and creativity of both the Sutton Trust team and the sector at large. It has been incredible to witness what can be achieved when we coalesce around a common problem and are pushed to be creative and think outside the box. 

I have the honour of leading a powerhouse of a team who have dedicated their lockdown to transforming our programmes into digital delivery in a matter of weeks. Our partners and supporters have been incredibly generous with their time, resources and ideas to support us in achieving this. The desire to collaborate and to deliver high quality programming has been extremely uplifting and has underlined that we can still be connected, though apart. 

Two weeks after we moved to home working, we were delivering our Easter programming of residential conferences and work experience. What the team achieved in this time has been nothing short of inspirational 

Our digital delivery 

Over the Easter ‘break’, 336 students engaged on our Pathways programmes. The team delivered 60 webinar sessions, including presentations, group work activities and panel discussions. 20 of our partner organisations stepped up to deliver activity across the areas of law, banking and finance. 114 volunteers across our law firms, corporate partners and supporters gave their time, at an extremely busy period, to share their experiences and support our students. 

In addition, a further 180 students took part in their digital US Programme residential, delivered by our partners at the USUK Fulbright Commission and 30 teachers took part in a webinar session run by our partners at Causeway Education. 

Reflecting on what we’ve learnt

Moving quickly required a lot of energy, creativity and an acceptance that we needed to learn as we went and adapt to a new way of delivering our programmes. We will be applying these learnings for our summer of delivery and felt it important to share what we have learned, warts and all, from adapting our programmes in this time frame. With this in mind, we have created a webpage where you will find some top tips and learnings, curated by our Pathways team: Claire Maton, Gemma Collins and Sara Bram. 

In a second blog this week, we will also share our evaluation data and case studies from those who took part. For now, I will leave one quote here that sincerely moved me: a welcome reminder of why we are all continuing to work hard and why it is essential to overcome the barriers to digital delivery; to ensure those who need it most do not miss out. 

“This “Virtual Work Experience” was an incredible way of staying productive during this difficult time. It distracted me from the darkness of the current pandemic and allowed me to dream of a brighter future.” Pathways to Law student, April 2020. 

Read our top takeaways for online delivery here


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