Prospects perk up with mentors

December 16, 2005

As the first in her family to go to university, Hannah Goff feels that everyone, no matter what their background, should have the chance to experience university life, writes Becky McCall.

Ms Goff, who recently graduated from Hull University, is part of a mentoring scheme run by the university to encourage children from lower socioeconomic groups to go to university.

HEAdFurther, as the scheme is known, is one of several widening participation initiatives highlighted in a report launched by the vice-chancellors' umbrella body Universities UK this week.

The study - From the Margins to the Mainstream: Embedding Widening Participation in Higher Education - is the third report into successful schemes across the sector improving access for people from families with no experience of higher education.

Ms Goff graduated last June with a degree in social work and social policy and is now a mentor for Stacey, a girl in care.

Ms Goff said: "I usually pick up Stacey from school. We may go to see a play or visit the campus and join in with various activities so that Stacey and the other young people get a feel for what it's like at university.

"It isn't the big scary place with posh people that they think it is," she added.

Stacey has been in and out of care homes throughout her 16 years. This instability and her dyslexia has meant that schoolwork has suffered.

Since Ms Goff has been visiting Stacey, her outlook and expectations have taken a turn for the better. She said: "Two years ago I was too scared to do anything slightly different. I always loved drama at school but was too shy to take part in a play. Now I love it and am doing a GCSE in drama. I put this down to Hannah for inspiring me and giving me confidence in myself."

Ms Goff and Stacey are visiting the Houses of Parliament this week to share their experience as a mentor-mentee team as an example of how schemes to widen participation in further education are delivering results.

"I don't want to look too far ahead but maybe one day I might be able to go to university too," Stacey said.

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