King’s has won the Guardian’s social and community impact award for Parent Power, a pioneering project that harnesses the potential of parents to inspire young people from underrepresented groups to pursue higher education.
Developed by King’s Widening Participation department and community organising charity, Citizens UK, Parent Power recruits and trains parents from King’s local boroughs to become experts in university access and campaigners on educational equality.
The Guardian’s University Awards celebrate “inspirational and groundbreaking projects from UK universities”. King’s Widening Participation team first ran the programme with the parents of 50 high performing and underrepresented pupils living in King’s local boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. It brought them together to gain knowledge about the education and university system and improve their skills and relationships to break down the barriers their children are facing.
Parent Power recognises the specific support required by pupils with academic potential who come from families with no history of university participation. Just 24 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals go on to higher education, compared to 42 per cent of those from better-off families. Over a quarter of this gap in participation relates to students with the same levels of attainment at GCSE.
I didn’t hear the word “university” until I had left school. I was quite smart but I didn’t know it. I was very quiet and sat in the background. No issues, no trouble but I got no encouragement from teachers. That’s not going to happen to Darntá.– Daniel Bennet, a heating engineer from Brixton, was one of the first to join Parent Power to help his son Darntá get into university
13-year-old Kaela-May is interested in computer science, but says she worries about ‘how hard it will be for someone like me to get into university’.
People might think that we don’t come from a particular background so we don’t want something good for the future, but really we do.– Kaela-May, daughter of Miata Noah, Parent Power Leader
At the start of the project the parents identified three issues to focus on: the cost of academic summer schools, the difficulty of visiting universities outside London, and the cost of British citizenship applications. Following a series of successful campaigns, they have secured fully funded bespoke open days at universities across the UK and negotiated bursary places on private summer schools.
The parents meet every few weeks to develop these campaigns while receiving training from a King’s staff member on topics including higher education admissions, private tutoring, finance and accessing medical courses.
Speaking about the award Anne-Marie Canning, Director of Social Mobility & Student Success at King’s, said: ‘We are thrilled that the Parent Power parents and this project are being recognised and celebrated at a national level.'
King’s is committed to finding the brightest minds and social background or parental connections shouldn’t play a part in this – but too often does. – Anne-Marie Canning, Director of Social Mobility & Student Success at King’s
Canning, added: 'This project harnesses the power of parents to inspire their children to see university as open to them and the work they are doing is just phenomenal. At the same time Parent Power provides a unique opportunity for King’s to really connect with, appreciate and address the concerns of local parents and carers, both in our communities and beyond.'
If you would like to find out more about Parent Power please contact Paul Webb (Widening Participation Officer) – firstname.lastname@example.org – and tweet us @ParentpowerSL @KCLWP