Give us more of a say! Centring the voices of schools in widening participation discourse

Canovan, Cherry orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9751-5646 (2022) Give us more of a say! Centring the voices of schools in widening participation discourse. SN Social Sciences .

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Many organisations in the UK work with schools to try to increase numbers of young people from underrepresented groups progressing to higher education. However public debate about the efficacy of these programmes rarely centres the views of schools themselves, often giving the sense that schools are passive recipients of these activities. This study begins to rectify this omission by gathering in-depth information from schoolrepresentatives about their views on, and interactions with, external widening participation providers. We find a number of potential benefits from including schools in the conversation; participants had a range of ideas as to how interventions could be improved and made more impactful, and also pinpointed areas of difficulty, including target pupil selection and quality of some providers’ delivery. Schools expressed a senseof overload in dealing with numerous approaches from external providers, and wished for more access to ‘filter’ mechanisms to provide quality assurance; however some also wished to work more closely with known organisations. It was also notable that none of the schools were working with providers to evaluate the impact of activities. Our findings demonstrate that listening to the voice of the school has the potential to make outreach activities more impactful.

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