The North East Collaborative Outreach Programme (NECOP) has launched its FutureMe programme of activity and support to increase the number of young people from the North East progressing to higher education.

Led by Newcastle University, all universities and colleges in the region are working together to deliver a targeted programme of activity and support to young people. The aim of the initiative is to make a rapid improvement in higher education progression rates. Representing all higher education options in the North East, this support will help young people make informed decisions about their future. The FutureMe programme will utilise innovative solutions to engage young people in schools and colleges including:

  • Online peer-to-peer tutoring to support attainment raising

  • Mentoring by undergraduate students to raise aspirations and help young people understand what higher education is really like

  • Self-confidence workshops and career advice clinics

Lucy Backhurst, Newcastle University’s Head of Student Recruitment and Admissions and Chair of NECOP, said: “Newcastle is delighted to be leading this exciting, innovative programme. It is driven by a strong, and dynamic partnership of universities, FE Colleges and schools, with the aim of signposting and supporting young people to achieve their goals. This is a brilliant opportunity to transform young people’s lives in the North East.”

As well as working with young people directly in schools and colleges, the website has also been launched to help young people and their parents and carers to learn more about the higher education options available to them.

Despite positive changes, the North East still has one of the lowest higher education progression rates in the country for 18 year olds; in 2016 young people in the North East were 38% less likely to enter higher education than those living in London.[1] Through FutureMe activity, NECOP will work to support young people in the North East with understanding how higher education can help them be successful in the future. As well as aiming to make improvements in higher education progression rates in target areas, activity will also increase understanding of higher education on a regional level.

Following a recent day of FutureMe activities involving over 330 young people at Sandhill View Academy in Sunderland, teacher Anthony Blake commented: “The two sessions that were delivered to my pupils were tailored to not only address the needs of the pupils in relation to exam preparation and preparing themselves for leaving school, but adapted to the requirements of the school itself.”

NECOP is part of the Higher Education Council for England’s National Collaborative Outreach Programme and is one of 29 consortia working on the shared aim of increasing higher education progression rates for young people from underrepresented groups. Of the 29 consortia across England NECOP is one of the largest consortia both in terms of funding and reach with a grant of £7.7million to work across 92 target wards. These wards are areas identified as having low progression to higher education both overall and lower progression than would be expected given GCSE attainment levels. The young people residing in these wards are supported by all of our regional colleges and 108 schools across the region, and this is where NECOP work will be focused.

The 18 Further Education Colleges and Sixth Form Colleges working on NECOP have plans in place to work intensively with over 3000 young people before the end of December 2018. Alongside this, a team of staff based across the five universities in the region will aim to work with almost 4000 young people on regular basis by delivering a programme of intensive support in schools. Many more students will also be supported through individual events, talks and sessions.

As well as working to engage young people NECOP also has plans in place to support higher education progression in the North East by:

  • Developing support for teachers and advisers in relation to higher education options

  • Working with local communities to address issues to specific to them

  • Carrying out a research project to investigate the barriers North East students face in relation to higher education.