Laura Bruce, Programmes Manager at the Trust, talks us through her connection to Summer Schools. 

My connection to Summer Schools began in my first year of study at The University of Nottingham, where I became a Summer School Ambassador.

I continued that role throughout my four years of study and then took an internship with the Widening Participation team at Nottingham, supporting the management and delivery of the programme.

I often reflect on what drew me to go back, year on year, to the Ambassador role and to ultimately pursue a career in outreach and social mobility.

I have concluded that the reason is I truly believe that Summer Schools make a difference.

This year is the Trust’s 20th anniversary and 20 years since the first summer school launched at The University of Oxford. In that time, over 15,000 young people have taken part in the programme with a further 2,300 due to attend this summer. 400 young people will be leaving their Summer School today and 100 more will arrive over the weekend for a day filled with icebreakers and introductions to their new environment.

As much as we celebrate the numbers of young people who have attended our programmes, we also recognise the need for many more to attend in the future. Social mobility is still a pertinent issue 20 years on. Research presented by Ipsos Mori at our Social Mobility Summit on 10th July showed that social/family background (‘who you know’) is increasingly regarded as a factor in how people can get ahead in life.

Where you live still affects your chances of attending university: a young person is 10 times less likely to attend a Russell Group university if they live in the poorest 5th of neighbourhoods compared to if they lived in the richest 5th.

The school you attend still affects which university you apply to: in one year 5 elite schools sent as many Oxbridge applications as the 1800 state schools combined.

Elite careers are still dominated by the privately educated: 70% of judges, 51% medics and 50% of cabinet ministers are privately educated, despite only 7% of the population attending a fee paying school.

We know Summer Schools are effective at beginning to address these issues and that is why we continue to fund them.

Our most recent Summer School study showed that attending a Summer School increased the likelihood of enrolling at a Russell Group university by 15% in comparison to both those who applied to a summer school, were eligible to come and didn’t get a place and those who didn’t meet additional social mobility criteria. We have seen a 50% uplift in attendance when considering non-summer school applicants from similar backgrounds.

The study also showed Summer School attendees are more likely to achieve a 1st or 2:1 in comparison to non-attendees.

We know they work statistically. But away from the numbers and stats, we, as practitioners, know that Summer Schools have a wider, less tangible impact, far beyond which university you attend.

Working on the programme, you see the difference in a young person from arrival to departure. I had the pleasure of witnessing the success stories of countless young people throughout the seven years I worked on the programme at Nottingham. From being away from home for the first time, to increased confidence to gaining places at university and in top careers.

It is this combination of evidence and personal stories that continues to motivate me within my role at the Trust.

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