A new model for Widening Participation

Our Access Champions programme trains a lead teacher to make lasting changes to the systems that support their students as they prepare for the transition to Higher Education.

Why focus on teachers

As key influencers who have day-to-day contact with students, teachers can act as powerful advocates for Higher Education.  

Schools provide regular information and guidance to students and structure the opportunities that are available to them.

But for many hardworking teachers, the constraints of time and resources mean that student destinations are rarely a top priority, particularly in stretched schools.

Disparities in school practices produce unequal outcomes for students: research shows that guidance for students at low-progression schools can be ad hoc and sometimes deficient.  

Access Champions builds on research into high-progression schools. It's a two-year intervention that builds and embeds excellent systems and practices in the schools which need it most. 

A key feature of Access Champions is the use of Progression Specialists – experienced educationalists – who provide intensive mentoring to POLAR1 students uncertain of progressing to Higher Education. 

Currently running across the UK, Access Champions offers an effective combination of structural change in schools and personal support for targeted students.

Offer rates have been phenomenal since Access Champions
— Jo Wilson, Access Champion at Pingle Academy, Derbyshire

Access Champions runs with the generous support of:

Key features of Access Champions 

Access Champions is based around five key pillars: 

1. Research-backed benchmarks

Schools and colleges use our set of research-backed benchmarks to assess their current systems and to create a development plan to target future improvements.

2. Half-termly face-to-face consultations and ongoing support from the central team

Each half-term, the Access Champion meets one of our experts – typically a former teacher with Senior Leadership Team experience – to support the implementation of the Access Champions’ development plans. As well as face-to-face meetings, Access Champions get ongoing support and guidance from the dedicated Causeway central team.

3. Regional training days

Over the course of the two-year programme, Access Champions meet at four regional training days, where they focus on different benchmarks, share best practice and receive training from our experts.

4. OSCAR online platform

In order to save teachers time, our OSCAR online platform provides Access Champions with the tools and resources they need to implement their development plans. OSCAR allows teachers to set students modules with accompanying resources and to monitor their progress during Years 12-13.

5. Progression Specialists

Each school is supported by one of our Progression Specialists who provides targeted mentoring for the POLAR Q1 sub-cohort.  This involves a 1-to-1 action-planning and review meeting with each student every half-term. Meetings follow a structured programme over the year. The Progression Specialist maintains contact with parents/carers, updating them on outcomes of each review meeting. Progression specialists are experienced teachers and mentors, with knowledge of challenging schools. 


As a teacher with 25 years experience, the programme has been a revelation
— Teresa Lamb, Access Champion at Brimsham Green school, Bristol

Delivery areas


Funded by the Sutton Trust:

  • West Midlands
  • Hertfordshire 

Funded by the Sutton Trust and NCOP/Make Happen:

  • Essex

Funded by NCOP/NEACO:

  • East Anglia

Funded by NCOP/FutureQuest:

  • Bristol

Funded by NCOP/DANCOP:

  • Nottinghamshire
  • Derbyshire

Funded by NCOP/Southern Universities Network:

  • Dorset
  • Hampshire
  • Isle of Wight

Funded by NCOP/NECOP:

  • Stockton-on-Tees

Funded by the Scottish Funding Council

  • Glasgow

Further phases of delivery will be targeted at other regions across the UK. 

Our experience: students 

The application strand of the Access Champions programme was trialled with the Sutton Trust in our Academic Apprenticeship programme

We have completely changed our approach to personal statements and references
— Leanne Straw, Access Champion at Quarrydale Academy, Nottinghamshire

Our impact

Access Champions: training day feedback (n=71 participants)