…You need to be courageous enough to think about a very high future, a very promising future. Anybody can go to Oxford and Cambridge provided you are working hard.
That’s the voice of a mother involved in Parent Power Oldham, a grassroots group, seeking to empower themselves and embolden their high-achieving children to aim high.
It’s exactly the sentiment Trinity’s Outreach Coordinator, Jon Datta, is working to instil among the 53 parents signed up to the by parents, for parents initiative. Trinity is supporting Parent Power Oldham to expand and equip the community organising network so that parents can help their children and each other to realise their potential.
Trinity’s partnership with Parent Power Oldham is one element of a new College outreach strategy devised by Mr Datta who, prior to joining the College, worked at secondary schools serving disadvantaged student populations where he led school improvement including the provision for high-ability students.
The new outreach strategy broadens the range of people the Colleges engages with (including younger students, under-represented ethnicities, parents and teachers) and increases its reach (numerically and geographically). It also includes a long-term focus on coastal regions and the North of England; areas of the UK with proportionally few applications to Oxford and Cambridge.
The core aim of Trinity’s outreach remains the same: to increase the diversity of Trinity’s student body so it better represents the general population and in doing so enriches the College community as a whole.
And with the consequences of the pandemic deepening divides – between north and south and between private and state educated students – there is an urgent need to bridge these gaps for those students with high learning potential from less-advantaged backgrounds.
Recent research by LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance shows that children in the north of England were less likely on average than those in the south to benefit from full school days during partial school closures in 2020. UCL research found that while 71% of state school children had had between none and one online lesson per day, 31% of private school schools had provided four or more online lessons or meetings every day.
Mr Datta said:
Research shows that the COVID era has affected the learning of the least advantaged considerably more than other students and that is something we need to address, as well as raising awareness of the different pathways open to students post-16 and helping them to aspire to and achieve their full academic and personal potential.
Parent Power Oldham is a collaboration between Oldham Opportunity Area, Greater Manchester Higher, Citizens UK, the Women’s Chai Project (Oldham) and Trinity College. Podcast episodes produced by and for parents seek to break down perceived barriers to studying at leading universities and provide information and guidance about applying. PPO builds on the success of Parent Power London, a partnership with King’s College London.
Trinity’s involvement combines the infrastructure to enable parents to take part, and enables their children to engage with home learning, in the form of laptops, with further substantial engagement by Mr Datta as part of the PPO steering group.
The partnership also includes input from Dom Clarke, an alumnus who studied Economics at Trinity, qualified as an accountant and returned to Bolton where he became Finance Director of the Marlborough Group, a financial services company headquartered in Bolton with 200 employees.
Mr Clarke said:
I’d like to help dispel myths about Cambridge and encourage applicants from the North to go to Cambridge.
I attended a comprehensive school and wasn’t trained or given extra tuition to get into university. I was lucky as one of my teachers took a real interest in myself and a few friends and took us to Cambridge for an open day. I enjoyed the trip, applied and was fortunate enough to get a place at Trinity.
Having Cambridge on my CV has opened doors for me and has helped me in my career. I firmly believe that Cambridge should be for the brightest minds regardless of their education prior to university.
During a new PPO episode, parents heard from Mr Clarke about his experience and from Mr Datta about Trinity’s outreach work and the importance of ensuring that students have access to the correct information and appropriate guidance and support to make strong applications to Oxford or Cambridge.
Najma Khalid, Lead Organiser of Parent Power Oldham, said Trinity’s involvement in the discussions was helping to challenge myths. She said:
We can already see the huge impact it has having. Parents are now changing their perceptions about Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The support provided by Trinity has bridged the digital divide, and provided support which has enhanced the quality of life for families and raised aspirations.
Yaasmin Mughees, another parent from Oldham, said parents were keen to hear more:
Every parent wants the best for their children…after having a discussion with my daughter she is still, ‘Mama how are you talking about me going to Oxford and Cambridge. There are so many stigmas related to that.’ I said, ‘You need to be courageous enough to think about a very high future, a very promising future. Anybody can go to Oxford and Cambridge provided you are working hard.’
As well as advice and information, Trinity has provided laptops for those families involved in Parent Power Oldham. Parent Carla Lyon said:
Receiving the laptop from Parent Power has really helped my son to engage more with his home learning. It has also made it easier for me to join the Parent Power Zoom meetings as well as keeping in touch with family and friends during lockdown. It really has helped us both a lot.
Tim Roe, Outreach Hub Assistant at Greater Manchester Higher, said:
Having Trinity College as a partner has enabled many more of our parent families to actively engage in our online parent sessions and podcast recordings, stimulated progressive discussions around Oxbridge and most importantly helped our parents to further support their children’s home schooling during lockdown.
Funded by Oldham Opportunity Area and Greater Manchester Higher, Parent Power Oldham is part of the Department for Education’s £90 million Opportunity Area programme helping children and young people overcome the obstacles to social mobility so they can achieve their ambitions no matter where they live. James Kempton, Chair of Oldham Opportunity Area Partnership Board, said:
It’s vital that we work together to unlock the potential of our young people so they can fulfil their ambitions and meet the future skills’ needs of our economy. Oldham Parent Power is helping do just that, with partners like Trinity College Cambridge bringing in role models to showcase the opportunities for our high achieving young people to succeed and also for the parents and carers themselves.
The latest Parent Power Oldham Podcast episode, featuring a discussion between parents, Mr Datta and Mr Clarke, is available via Spotify.