Helping tomorrow's students to aim higher
TEESSIDE University’s pioneering work to inspire local schoolchildren to think about further and higher education is helping to motivate future generations of university students.
One of the best-known initiatives, which achieved national recognition, is the Meteor programme. Launched in 1999, it aims to raise the aspirations of local children and get them to consider continuing their education at college and university level.
The equally successful Passport scheme, also launched in 1999, offers sixth-form and further education students a helping hand through the maze of university courses available.
Now over a decade on, both the Meteor and Passport programmes are helping to inspire young people to think about the future and look ahead to higher education. Both have been acclaimed for making a positive difference to the expectations of young people on Teesside and the wider region.
Meteor began by working with six primary schools in central Middlesbrough. Now, it has expanded to include 14 primary and 19 secondary schools across the Tees Valley.
Activities include inviting the school pupils, often aged as young as ten or 11, to taster days held on campus. There is also one-to-one work with university students who mentor the pupils and a summer school, complete with a mini-graduation ceremony for the Meteor youngsters in Middlesbrough Town Hall.
Prominent national recognition for Meteor came in March 2000, when a group of Meteor pupils visited Downing Street to meet the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and tell him in person how Meteor was encouraging them to think seriously about going to university.
One of the pupils, Craig Myers, then 11, told Mr Blair: “The Meteor summer school encouraged us to think about further education when we leave school and the staff were very nice.”
The Prime Minister responded with: “That’s about the best sound bite I have ever heard.” His then Education Secretary, David Blunkett, added that he believed the use of university students as role models and mentors was something other universities should follow. And so they did in the years to come!
Research by higher education marketing organisation Heist highlighted the positive effect which Meteor has had on children regarding their own potential to go to university, while the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has described Meteor as a model of best practice.
The latest group of Meteor children this summer went on a meteoric mission to view the town’s new £2.7m, 48m high sculpture, Temenos, up close.
The sculpture is the work of influential artist Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, one of the world’s leading structural engineers. And children from Abingdon Primary School will this summer design and construct their own ‘mini-Temenos’ as part of the annual Meteor summer school.
A natural progression for many Meteor students as they continue through school is the Passport scheme, which encourages students’ progress from further education to university.
Among the Passport participants is Hannah Marshall, whose passion for sport earned her special recognition last year’s Passport Pride Awards.
Hannah was studying at Darlington’s Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College when she was named Passport Student of the Year. She said: “I really enjoy getting involved in sport and think Teesside University would be great place to study, as the facilities for sports students are amazing.”