Every year we are seeing more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds secure places at university. But widening participation at universities remains a challenge. Progress in closing the attainment gap has been slow with research predicting that the gap will remain for another 500 years if it continues to narrow at the same rate.

This is why the support we offer at The Access Project is so vital. Our programme combines in-school mentoring with a trained member of Access Project staff with academic tutoring provided by a volunteer.

Started ten years ago by a teacher in north London, The Access Project now provides support for bright students aged 14-18 from disadvantaged backgrounds from schools across London, Birmingham, Black Country and the East Midlands towns of Ashfield, Mansfield and Shirebrook. With around 1300 students on their programme the charity supports young people through their GCSEs and A Levels providing vital support for their students, raising confidence and attainment.

Student and tutor involved in The Access Project

Student and tutor involved in The Access Project

Over the time the young person is on the programme they are tutored in a subject they are struggling with for an hour a week. Volunteer tutors offer this vital support working through topic areas highlighted by the student’s teacher to help boost their confidence in specific areas. The passion, dedication and resilience of each of our tutors makes a difference. In 2018, 90% of our students secured a place at university with 57% of these at the top universities across the country.

“The Access Project gives me individualised attention that I don’t get in a crowded classroom. I like the fact that it provides me with an environment free of distractions…so I have the ability to focus and learn better” – Amina, Year 12.

The volunteer tutoring also has a positive impact on the tutors. Meeting with their student each week gives volunteers a chance to escape the bubble of work life and get back in touch with a subject they love whilst also making a difference to their student’s life. Mark, who is currently tutoring GCSE Physics, believes it is “one of the most rewarding hours of my week…One of the best things about the Access Project is being able to see your tutee progress. It’s great to think that, even if just slightly, you have helped in that progression and really makes it worthwhile.”

Without strives to close the access gap in education, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds will continue to be held back. With the support of our volunteers and engagement with our partner schools, we continue to ensure each young person on our programme can and will achieve their potential. If you think you can help us make this possible get in touch with our volunteering team by visiting our website and sign-up to become a tutor in the next academic year. If you would like to find out if your school is eligible to sign up to our programme please visit our website.