A comprehensive support programme for improving progression rates to university and other post-18 options

Access Champions is a comprehensive support programme for schools and colleges which is designed to improve progression rates to university, and other post-18 options, for students across the attainment spectrum. 
Currently, state-educated students applying to university are at a significant disadvantage. Even when achieving identical grades to their privately-educated peers, research shows that state-schooled applicants are significantly less likely to get an offer. 

Access Champions is designed to tackle this disadvantage by ensuring that state-educated students get enhanced support, enabling them to submit high-quality university applications, as well as guidance on non-HE options where appropriate. The programme includes particular support for students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

How it works

A key member of staff in your school/college is nominated as an 'Access Champion', who we support so they can embed outstanding practice in university applications and other post-18 progression routes into your school or college. Our strategies reduce teacher workload, provide practical staff guidance, and ensure best practice throughout your institution.

Schools taking part in the programme get:

  • ongoing training and strategic support for one key member of staff
  • clear structures and resources for embedding practice in your school/college, including support with staff training on UCAS references and personal statements
  • workshops for students on interviews and admissions tests
  • the latest resources to support staff and students with all aspects of the admissions process
  • intensive mentoring from a Progression Specialist for a key group of students

The programme launches in the autumn term of 2017, and support continues until  the final UCAS deadline in January 2019.

One of the most innovative and important school Access programmes of the last decade.

Access Champions runs with the generous support of:

Tackling application needs at source

Each year schools face a range of key application challenges including:

1. Co-ordinating support: a diverse cohort of students require support for a range of complex activities from setting up work experience placements to writing apprenticeship applications.

2. Feedback and personal statement monitoring: supporting personal statements requires expertise across all university disciplines, stretching capacity and expertise.

3. Collating and monitoring references: ensuring that references are written to a consistently high standard remains a challenge even with an experienced body of staff.

4. Preparing for additional tests and interviews: high-achieving students require extra support for additional admissions tests and interviews putting further strain on staff resources. 

Applications are extremely challenging even for an experienced pastoral team.
— Dr David Towsey, Head of Sixth Form, Gildredge House

Providing a comprehensive solution for schools

Access Champions solves each of the major problems in the application process:

1. OSCAR system co-ordindates all HE and non-HE activities: the OSCAR system enables teachers to track, monitor and set term-by-term tasks for all students ensuring that each student is fully prepared.

2. Personal statement tool: the personal statement tool boosts academic content and allows students to explore an individual topic of interest. Sutton Trust research shows that the tool has led to improved offer rates at Russell Group universities.

3. Reference training and tool: workshops are provided at all schools analysing current practice and improving outcomes with the assistance of the Access Champion reference writing tool.

4. Modules for tests and interview preparation: activities prepare students for additional tests (UKCAT, BMAT, LNAT) and help to structure interview preparation. Academic enrichment opportunities are made available for all students regardless of their entry requirements.

How Access Champions Works

The role of the Access Champion

1. Access Champions appointed

Access Champions - typically Heads of Sixth Form or members of the Senior Leadership Team - are appointed. 



2. School needs analysis

With one-to-one support, Access Champions analyse current application processes within a school and identify areas which can be improved without requiring additional resources.

3. Training for staff

Working with us, Access Champions develop practice throughout the staff cohort, providing training for teachers and ensuring that key messages are harmonised across the staff body.

OSCAR support software

1. Cohort mapping

Using the OSCAR system, teachers are able to monitor all their students from the beginning of Year 12 to the end of Year 13. Students with special requirements can be tagged at any time and given a process for preparing applications.

2. OSCAR Modules

Teachers can assign module activities to students for all application needs from course selection to additional tests. OSCAR allows teachers to co-ordinate all their existing support and expand provision.


3. Student activities

Students use OSCAR to navigate their HE or apprenticeship application, completing tasks set by their assigned teachers. Students benefit from individual pathways which set clear milestones for their applications.

Delivery areas


Funded by the Sutton Trust:

  • West Midlands
  • Hertfordshire and Essex

Funded by NCOP/NEACO:

  • East Anglia

Funded by NCOP/UWE:

  • 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

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