Raising aspirations and attainment

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Robertson Trust First Chances programme

A £240,000 funding package to expand the University of St Andrews’ First Chances programme, helping students from local state schools to aspire to further and higher education, was welcomed by 250 Fife school pupils today.

The pupils were attending the University’s residential summer school run as part of its First Chances programme. The programme, now in its eighth year, sees the University work with secondary schools to raise the aspirations and attainment of pupils who might not otherwise consider further or higher education. Student ambassadors and University staff work with young people to explore possibilities, support future applications to university, and provide help and advice regarding university life.

The money, provided by the Robertson Trust, will provide:

  • training for school teachers running the programme in schools;
  • the extension of the First Chances programme for four years, with 150 new S3 pupils joining the programme on a yearly basis and being supported through their entire senior phase at school and into university.

All pupils on the First Chances programme will have access to annual residential programmes, revision camps, mentoring and guidance whilst at school. This support will continue into university with financial support, mentoring and internships.

In addition the Robertson Scholarship Trust will also provide funding for an extra 20 university scholarships each year for students to attend the University of St Andrews (the University will match-fund up to £2,000 living expenses per scholarship).

Vice-Principal Dr Anne Mullen said: “This funding will mean more young Scots from across Fife will have the opportunity to engage with Scotland’s first university, and will help ensure that pupils who demonstrate ability get the support they need to realise their potential. Today’s investment from the Robertson Trust is an endorsement of St Andrews’ commitment to raising attainment and we look forward to working with them to expand our efforts.”

Kenneth Ferguson, Director of the Robertson Trust, said: “We are delighted to support this pioneering initiative, which has already helped many school pupils on to varied destinations in further and higher education. That’s a great result. With our funding announcement today we hope to enable more young people across Fife to realise their potential and to gain all the benefits – educational, social, and cultural – St Andrews can offer pupils as they formulate their own ambitions. I hope that the welcome they receive here from Scotland’s oldest University gives them the confidence and self-esteem to shape their own futures in exciting ways.”

Pupils attending the First Chances programme come from schools including: St Andrews RC High School, Auchmuty High School, Buckhaven High School, Viewforth High School and Kirkcaldy High School. Pupils are required to produce a presentation which they deliver to an audience at the University, and to write an essay on their given topic. The contacts the pupils make at the University, and the skills they gain, will hopefully enable them to aspire to do their best and achieve their full potential.

They are among around 800 school pupils across Scotland who will participate in University of St Andrews outreach projects this summer. The University continues to promote widening access schemes such as the Sutton Trust Summer School, REACH, and Access for Rural Communities (ARC).

Over the past seven years the number of pupils engaged with annual outreach programmes at the University of St Andrews has increased from 235 to around 2,000. Together with the University’s contextualised admissions policy and bursary support these projects have made a significant impact. The number of students arriving at St Andrews from the most deprived backgrounds has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past year.

The Robertson Trust provides over £5,000,000 annually to support educational projects across Scotland. With a focus on providing access to educational opportunities for those who would not otherwise have them, they partner with a wide range of organisations, all of whom work to raise aspiration and provide young people with opportunities to fulfil their potential. The Robertson Scholarship Trust provides students from low-income backgrounds with not only finance, but additional mentoring and support into employment throughout – and beyond – the duration of their studies.

Visit the Robertson Trust website for background on the organisation and the Scholarship Trust support pages for more details on the award. Photos of school pupils attending the First Chances summer school are available from the Press Office on 01334 46 2530 or [email protected].

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