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GHWY trials innovative online outreach for care experienced young people 

In response to the unprecedented restrictions experienced during Spring/Summer 2020 and beyond, Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) has sought to adapt and innovate to ensure our engagement with core target groups continues, albeit in a very different way.   

This has included reimagining our bespoke outreach with care experienced young people, which usually takes place in a highly interactive, informal learning setting. Channelling this kind of outreach online would be fraught with difficulties, not least in terms of safeguarding the identity and wellbeing of care experienced children online.   

In consultation with local Virtual Schools, an alternative approach to engagement was devised, designed to enhance interest and skills for higher education within an independent study context. GHWY’s ‘Summer Project’ invited care experienced young people aged 16+ to research a big issue of importance to them. Guided through four stages of a research project format, participants received access to curated visual resources and bespoke weekly briefs, with the opportunity to submit their completed project at the end. 

This project was designed with  three things in mind:  

  1. There has been a lot going on in the world recently and it can be hard to make sense of it all.  Conducting research can help  young people  channel  their  interest in an important topic and communicate it academically and professionally.    
  2. Care experienced young  people often have  passionate opinions but can struggle to  communicate these  articulately.  The project is designed  to empower them to have greater ownership  and understanding of their insights, opinions and experiences. 
  3. A research-based project can develop several skills, including critical thinking and time management, which can help  young people  as they progress,  whether  they  choose higher education or not.   

Despite endorsement from our local partnerships and efforts to reach as many young people as possible, the project unfortunately received little engagement. There are likely to be several contributory factors to this, including the relational void associated with indirect engagement and the timing of delivery over the summer. One clear advantage of this model of outreach is that its initial production is sustained, allowing the project to be back up and running in a short space of time should modifications be identified. 

As we all embark upon new territory, reflective evaluation is vital to learn lessons and improve our online outreach delivery.  This is new to us all.  Some things will work well, others won’t. One thing remains clear – we will keep trying to get things right in order to reduce inequalities in HE access, success and progression in our region. A pandemic won’t stop us! 

 

Natalie Aldridge, GHWY Collaborative Outreach Officer

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