Photo: The bone laboratory that the boys visited as part of the pilot project.

A new pilot project has been launched at two Kent schools to support and strengthen the educational experiences of boys from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Championing Boys was designed to allow students to explore a variety of different potential identities through the exploration of subjects which extend past traditional curriculum and link into potential future careers.

The project, led by the University of Kent, saw 15 boys from Turner Free School and Folkestone Academy take part in a series of workshops and a visit to the university’s campus.

Over six two-hour sessions, they got to experience subjects that don’t feature in the school curriculum and link to future careers. It was funded by the KMPF Strategic Outreach Fund via UniConnect, which helps young people explore routes into higher education.

Francesca Plom, Development Officer at the University of Kent, led the pilot. She is currently doing a Doctorate in Education focusing on boys from low socio-economic backgrounds, and her research has supported the development of this project.

She said, “I have a personal vested interest in this area and have been attending the national Boys Impact Coalition meetings over the last year. The low progression of boys from working-class areas into Higher Education is a historical issue that backdates decades, and yet there hasn’t really been much focus from an outreach or access perspective. The funds allocated by KMPF have given us the space and scope to explore it further.”

“Within the workshops, we wanted to push the boundaries of gender norms and allow them to try things that are quite distinct from the curriculum. Our aim was to show them a route to higher education that they hadn’t perhaps seen before.”

The Boys Impact Coalition is a national network made up of academic practitioners and representatives from relevant charities. It has been established to share learning and approaches to help address this issue. As part of this, Fran was recently invited to speak at the ‘Driving Impact: Supporting the Educational Outcomes and Progression of Working-Class Boys’ annual conference held earlier this month and led jointly by the University of Bournemouth and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Fran presented alongside Amy Laker, Uni Connect Outreach Activities Coordinator for the University of Kent.

The project has received positive feedback from the students who took part and an impact evaluation is currently being carried out.

Fran added, “The next steps will be to finalise the evaluation and look at further ways to help encourage more boys to consider higher education.”

Lucy King

20 Sep 2023

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