“As a teacher with 25 years' experience, the programme has been a revelation”

As we begin the next round of training days for our Access Champions schools, we caught up with one Access Champion to find out what difference the programme has made to the way she helps prepare students for applying to higher education.

Teresa Lamb is the Head of Sixth Form and Access Champion at Brimsham Green School, situated in a new town ten miles outside Bristol. It’s part of a consortium with two other schools in South Gloucestershire and there are around 140 students on the roll in Years 12 and 13. Roughly half of students progress to higher education each year.

One of the first things we help Access Champions with is an assessment of the current situation in school, using our benchmarks to identify areas where provision can be improved. During this assessment, Teresa prioritised:

  1. Running staff CPD across the three schools in the consortium.
  2. Reducing workload on senior staff by sharing good practice and strengthening systems for writing references using OSCAR.
  3. Changing provision for parents on HE progression and bringing forward the school’s HE information evening.

Having identified areas for improvement, our Access Champions get support to put together a development plan that outlines the steps to take to make the changes necessary.

At the end of the first year of the programme, Teresa told us that tutors now feel “empowered” and are able to focus on emphasising a student’s academic suitability and skills when writing references.

Having used OSCAR, our online platform that provides guidance on how to write an outstanding personal statement and structures the personal statement writing process for students, Teresa’s found that this year’s UCAS applications had “the best personal statements [the school] has ever sent off”, with students having to complete fewer drafts.

Some students at Brimsham have also been paired up with one of our Progression Specialists, who provides each of them with a course of one-to-one mentoring sessions aimed at helping them choose the best approach to HE and providing support with the application process. After those sessions parents have been “hugely positive” in their feedback.

Over the next year, Teresa plans to champion a whole-school approach to HE progression, focusing on working with students before they start Year 12.

We’re really looking forward to working with Teresa to see how those improvements make a difference to the students who are about to start their exams this year.