The National Collaborative Outreach Scheme (NCOP) is a £60m national outreach programme commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The George Eliot School is one of eleven schools and three colleges in the Warwickshire region to receive support for its pupils in Years 9-11 with the overarching aim to increase the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education (HE) by 2020. The University of Warwick leads the scheme locally through the ThinkHigher network (a collaboration between University of Warwick, Coventry University and local FE colleges) and has been awarded funding by HEFCE to work with pupils in seven target local authority wards in Warwickshire. These wards have been identified by HEFCE as having a low progression rate to Higher Education and The George Eliot School has been identified as one of the schools with a high proportion of pupils from these wards.
The current academic year has seen the start of the programme and target pupils from years 9 – 11 have benefited from the scheme. Pupils have attended visits to University, experienced a variety of specialist courses and received 1-1 mentoring in school from Think Higher staff. The scheme is to be reviewed in July to see how best target pupils can be supported without taking them out of the classroom. In April GES hosted a launch event to introduce the scheme to target pupils in year 8. GES was the only school chosen to host such an event as a trial which will be developed across the other schools next academic year. This was a well attended evening which was supported by pupils benefiting from the scheme in our current years 9 – 11. A crèche was put on so that families could attend together and food provided afterwards in the form of Domino’s pizza. The formal part of the evening lasted for about an hour and opened families to the myths about University, financing university, pathways and opportunities that the scheme could potentially offer. Some parents were so enthused by the scheme they took information about becoming parent mentors. There was a positive atmosphere with many comments from parents and pupils alike looking forward to engaging with the programme next academic year.