Clarity of purpose: The SHARE with Schools project (SwS) brings together three overarching objectives in line with Welsh Government and Cardiff University’s strategic objectives: these are widening access to university, meaningful/participatory community engagement and the development of employability skills for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The project was established in January 2011 and has been developed and trialed by a highly capable team of paid SHARE postgraduate students. In 2011-12 further funding was secured and the project recruited a team of 50 committed undergraduate volunteers who have delivered interactive workshops to a range of schools in community first locations.
Impact, Evaluation and Originality:
Objective 1 - Breaking Down Barriers to Higher Education: Evaluating the effectiveness of SwS in relation to this objective is an ongoing process. This is facilitated through engaging activities, outreach visits and regular face-to-face contact between undergraduates and school pupils, thereby establishing sustainable longstanding partnerships with target schools/teaching staff. Early indications are that the project is already having an impact: the majority of year 12 pupils have expressed interest in progression and even younger year 8/9 pupils have been posing questions about university study.
Objective 2 - Developing Interactive Workshops for Schools : Following consultation with teaching staff, a series of thematic interdisciplinary workshops have been developed showcasing the range of subject areas taught/researched across SHARE. All workshops have been developed by postgraduates in relation to their research expertise. Workshop 'toolkits' have been created consisting of artifacts, replicas, PowerPoint presentations, worksheets, quizzes, training notes as well as supporting resources and a web page for pupils/teachers http://sharewithschools.wordpress.com/.
Objective 3 - Consulting and building partnerships with teachers: All SwS postgraduate coordinators have been directly involved in making contact with key staff within target schools (headmasters, history teachers etc.) establishing meetings/feedback sessions, trialing workshops and building partnerships/positive relations between SHARE and the schools. This consultation process, which is ongoing, has closely informed the development/nature of the project.
Objective 4 - Training undergraduate volunteers: Through email shots, posters, presentations a team of 50 volunteer undergraduates have been recruited from disciplines across SHARE. This volunteer network is supported by a facebook page and online quickerplace discussion forum. Each undergraduate volunteer has undertaken two half day training sessions on the specifics of delivering workshops and also to inculcate broader presentational/public engagement skills – these training sessions are delivered by experienced postgraduate coordinators. Volunteers are asked to reflect on their concerns/skills before and after delivery of workshops through feedback forms and video diaries.
Objective 5 - Delivering a programme of workshops in target schools: A series of pilot workshops have been delivered over the summer/autumn 2011. A full programme of workshops, including year 7, 9 and 12 workshops, have been delivered at a range of target schools during February/March 2012. Further workshops planned and also return visits from targeted schools to SHARE over the summer 2012. Contacts, resources and support mechanisms are in place to roll out this programme in future years. Workshops are evaluated through tangible learning outcomes, feedback from teachers/volunteers, photographic records and video diaries.
Objective 6: - Embedding employability skills into the project. In collaboration with the University Careers division an unaccredited certificate of employability will be embedded into SHARE degree schemes which will entail the development of an employment portfolio derived from volunteer/extra-curriculum activities. SwS placements form at integral part of this portfolio, developing and progressing participating postgraduates/undergraduates from basic engagement/presentational skills to project development/management roles, thereby embedding engagement into the curriculum/culture of the School.
Objective 7 - Holding dissemination events: A SHARE with Schools dissemination event was delivered in November 2011 showcasing phase 1 of the project to other academic schools at Cardiff. A workshop sharing good practice and ideas from the project is proposed for the National Centre for the Coordination of Public Engagement UK conference, October2012. A range of web resources are also in place.
Objective 8 - Nurturing Partnerships with target schools: A rigorous consultation process has informed the development of the project. Teaching staff in the targeted schools are engaged/eager to build longstanding links with SHARE in order to break down barriers and to facilitate the delivery of history/archaeology/religion within their institutions. Three of the consulted history teachers (Blaengwawr, Fitzalan, Aberdare Girls) expressed the wish to modify/develop/tailor their curriculums in order to better reflect the teaching and research undertaken in SHARE. Teaching staff have also requested reciprocal visits to SHARE following on from the SwS outreach visits. As a result of SwS, teachers and pupils from several target Schools (Glyn Derw, Fitzalan, Mary Immaculate) are also participating directly in an archaeological research project (CAER Heritage project) revealing how the partnerships formed by SwS are embedding target schools into the culture of SHARE.
It is essential that the SwS project is sustainable and long term in order to make meaningful progress in breaking down barriers to higher education. For this reason, outreach visits to pupils have been targeted at various stages of their secondary education, not just in the final years of sixth form. Following the recommendations of teaching staff, the SwS team designed workshops that engaged with pupils at three crucial stages in their academic progression. That is: year 7 (first year), year 9 (pupils decide options) and year 12 (6th form) thereby providing variety and skills at the appropriate level for each stage. Through this approach, the SwS team return to schools year-on-year, building trust and allowing pupils to become familiar with higher education provision; increasing their familiarity with undergraduates/postgraduates and what they do.
The success of the pilot phase of the project has generated further funding which has in turn resulted in the recruitment of a large pool of undergraduate volunteers in phase 2. The employability benefits for students along with the community engagement and widening access aspects of SwS mean that it is closely aligned to policy and funding directives which, it is envisaged, will sustain the project for years to come with tremendous potential benefits to SHARE and schools in some of the most disadvantaged communities in the Cardiff catchment.