A two-year programme aimed at raising the aspirations and confidence of secondary school pupils in Year 10 has been launched by the University of Chester.

Entitled Future First Chester, the initiative is aimed in particular at supporting pupil premium pupils. The pupil premium is additional government funding for publicly funded schools in England to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, and close the gap between them and their peers.

Future First consists of a series of enrichment activities at the University of Chester, which are free of charge, encompassing a number of creative subjects, such as art and design, performing arts and creative writing. Students will have a number of days themed around each subject area with a practical element to allow them to be self-reflective and creative in a new environment. This is to give the students a chance to learn new skills, whilst also experiencing what is on offer in Higher Education (HE) more broadly.

They will be able to use the university’s equipment, and will be given the opportunity to complete their own project. Students will also be able to meet new people and current university students. As the programme progresses into Year 11, they will be provided with academic support to help raise attainment too. This will culminate in a showcase in July, in which the students will have the opportunity to display their work and their creations to parents, carers and teachers.

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The focus of the programme shifts in Year 11, where students will be supported with their attainment through regular revision sessions and mentoring from current undergraduates.

The Future First initiative is in collaboration with the Merseyside Network for Collaborative Outreach (MNCO) and Higher Horizons.

Widening participation officer at the University of Chester Kevin Hornblower said: “We are extremely excited to launch the University of Chester’s first targeted and sustained programme for pupil premium children. We believe that it is important to work with students from all backgrounds, ensuring they have a clear idea of what options they have available to them when it comes to making decisions about their future.”

Helen Cooper, also a widening participation officer at the University, added: “I’m looking forward to working with the students over the course of the programme, giving them an insight into HE and, hopefully, helping them achieve their potential in their GCSEs.”

Schools looking for further information about the initiative can contact: Kevin Hornblower: k.hornblower@chester.ac.uk or phone 01244 512452 or Helen Cooper: helen.cooper@chester.ac.uk or phone 01244 512451.