The University of Leeds has a highly regarded outreach programme of considerable depth and breadth reaching over 49,000 young people, parents and carers during 2010/11. Within this the University takes very seriously its role in explaining the complexities of the student finance system to young people and their parents and has established an innovative partnership project with Santander.
This ground breaking project creates a sustainable, high impact financial literacy programme that enables Key Stage 3 (KS3) and post-16 pupils to improve their financial literacy and to help them make the link between higher education and their future life chances. Working with pupils in Years 8, 9, 12 and 13 the project provides them (and their parents/carers) with accurate, in-depth information, advice and guidance at key decision-making points in their lives.
At KS3, pupils participate in an interactive, real-world enterprise competition delivered by 11 trained student volunteers on an accredited University module. The volunteers assist the pupils to develop their understanding of how to manage money, awareness of financial terms and products, analysing financial risk and reward and understanding the importance of finance in their daily lives. The pupils apply the knowledge they have gained by bringing an enterprising idea to life, utilising a capital grant of £150 per team. The project culminates in an awards event on campus in May where the teams pitch their ideas in a ‘Dragons Den’ style event, enabling them to actively demonstrate the experience and knowledge they have developed.
At post-16, pupils in 14 schools/colleges work closely with 13 University students, developing their understanding of the benefits and opportunities of higher education and the skills graduate employers are looking for. Paid Student Ambassadors deliver interactive workshops, allowing the pupils to gain an understanding of how investment in future study and higher level skills impacts on their future lives and earning potential. A specific focus on student finance helps the participants to demystify the finance system which can prove to be a significant barrier to progression for young people and is a very prominent topic for current post-16s.
The project recognises the sensitivity surrounding money and personal finance; the University students have received thorough training on diplomacy and communication skills (as well as student finance) to ensure the sessions are inclusive and respect each pupil’s personal situation. The session plans and resources are age appropriate and varied, with each University student attending an introductory meeting with their school contact so as to address curriculum requirements and discuss any pertinent issues.
More than 250 pupils in the region will participate in the project this year, building on a successful 2010/11 pilot where one teacher stated - “…the scheme is excellent and has really enriched our students”.
Every participant has completed pre and post-questionnaires to measure the impact of the project. Of the responses received to date (from post-16 pupils), 83% indicated that before the sessions they understood ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’ about student finance; 49% said this came from their school/college and 24% from their parents/carers. After the sessions, 82% indicated that their knowledge of student finance had increased ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’ with 75% accrediting this to their Student Ambassadors. A considerable increase in respondents saw University as an affordable option, from 24% beforehand to 82% afterwards with 79% stating that they now had a better idea of how to manage financially in higher education. 54% of pre-questionnaire respondents indicated that the increased tuition fees had affected their decision to attend University and after the sessions, 68% confirmed they still wished to go and 86% believed that higher education would have an impact on their future life chances. Overall, 75% of the respondents confirmed they felt more prepared for higher education, having participated in the programme.
Quality assurance visits have been completed in each school/college to observe the student’s preparation, delivery and the pupil’s reactions to the project; this feedback will contribute towards an evaluation report in the summer of 2012 to identify areas of focus and development in the 2012/13 phase of the project.
Qualitative feedback received to date has been very positive –
“The Ambassadors pitched the session just right for the students and treated them as equals which they really appreciated and understood the impact that financial planning can have on their academic career. Their input was greatly appreciated by the staff and students alike”.
This innovative new project seeks to meet the demand for relevant and engaging financial literacy workshops which also make the connection with the holistic view of higher education and its impact on life chances and overall quality of life. With direct input from Santander staff in the students’ training, the pupils benefit from accurate and up to date financial information which they can share with their parents/carers with a view to making informed decisions about their future. Furthermore, the pupils have the opportunity to work closely with current students to gain a real insight into University life and how higher education can be financially viable, whether they live at home and study locally or move further a field.
The project is inherently sustainable for a number of reasons. Firstly, the development of the KS3 strand as an accredited University module ensures that it has academic support and also becomes embedded as part of the core offer to students and will be available to future cohorts. Secondly, the resources will be transferable and hosted online for universities, Santander staff and schools to utilise across the country. Thirdly the enterprise grants offered to the schools can be utilised year on year to reinvest in the programme. It is anticipated that minor losses or gains would be generated from the investments therefore allowing capital to be continued indefinitely. The project would look to utilise post-16 pupils who move onto higher education as future Student Ambassadors to continue to deliver the post-16 provision. Beyond the funding period the project would continue to work in partnership with Santander branch staff to provide training and outreach work with the schools.