National awards celebrate transformative power of Widening Participation programmes

By City Press Office (City Press Office), Published

Two Widening Participation Access and Participation Plan-funded projects at City, University of London have won National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) Awards.

The Ensuring Greatness Project, run through City’s Widening Participation tutoring team by Leanne Allen, was awarded the NEON Widening Access Partnership Award.

City Cares, run by Leigh Rooney and Andy Smith, has been awarded the NEON Widening Access Initiative (Retention & Progression) Award.

NEON Award winnersL-R: Anthony McIntosh, Lead Practitioner in Mathematics and Raising Standards Lead for Black Caribbean Students at Elmgreen School, Leanne Allen, Jasmin Burnage, Leigh Rooney, City, University of London

NEON is the professional organisation supporting those involved in widening access to higher education (HE). The awards celebrate the transformative power that HE can have; recognising key achievements in the widening access sector.

The Ensuring Greatness project is City’s long-term targeted attainment and aspiration initiative, in partnership with Elmgreen School.  Established in 2018, it works with students who identify as Black Caribbean in Year 10 and 11 to deliver sustained, high-impact tutoring, mentoring, and careers support.

Project lead Leanne Allen explained that students are offered intensive maths and English tutoring aimed at closing the attainment and awarding gap, as well as on-campus revision days, a Black Professionals event and Graduation celebrations.

“This approach combines ‘classic’ tutoring, HE outreach and professional development into a unique school partnership, building a community across sectors to bolster skills, develop aspiration and forge belonging,” she said.

City Cares is a dedicated programme of support for care-experienced students, young adult carers, estranged students, asylum seekers and refugees committed to providing financial, educational, pastoral, and extra-curricular support to all students in the City Cares community. Students receive personalised support adapted to their individual needs from the designated member of staff dedicated to the programme.

Jasmin Burnage, who evaluated the programme, said in 2019-20, 100 percent of care-experienced students on the programme continued from year one to year two of their studies — 9.8 percentage points higher than the institutional average. This pattern of high continuation is reflected across all student groups in the Programme.

“City students have testified to City Cares being a network of support that truly understands each individual situation, no matter how challenging or complex, and a community who recognises that ‘your circumstances do not define you, they are just a part of your story,’” she said.

Sarah Wood, Head of Student Inclusion and Engagement at City said she was “over the moon” to hear of the recent awards.

“I am incredibly proud of the work of my team.   Both projects offer targeted, tailored support have a real and positive impact on the lives of the students we work with.  The awards are testament to the commitment, creativity and care of everyone involved to empower underrepresented learners to access and succeed in higher education.”