A Liverpool high school and LJMU collaboration is already inspiring youngsters to pursue degree level study and careers in teaching, after just six months since its inception.
Spearheaded by School of Education lecturer, Adam Vasco, the two-year project aims to bridge the gap between school and university to ensure that people of all backgrounds, especially those from the Global Majority, have the confidence and support to choose university study.
The project also hopes to showcase how transformational and fulfilling a career in teaching can be in a bid to increase diversity within the education sector.
A group of 50 Year 12 and 13 pupils from Archbishop Blanch School, alongside diversity champions from within the school’s teaching staff, have undertaken weekly visits and workshops at LJMU education and arts facilities as part of the project.
They have used creative forms like photography, working alongside expert teachers, to explore their own identities and to build confidence that university is a place for them to thrive, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Explaining the rationale behind the project coined ‘Everyday Heroes’, Adam said: “Initially we set out to work with a group of secondary aged pupils so that we could discover their everyday heroes in popular culture. We wanted to identify the qualities that made them role models and to then make links with those active in our communities.
“As often happens in teaching, the best laid plans quickly adapted and changed. What was clear after meeting, and seeing the pupils in the university spaces, was that everyday heroes was not a description for others, but a fitting moniker for them as a group. What has transpired has been great fun, a lot of learning to reflect upon and some big questions raised for us as an institution.”
Collaborating with academics and experts within the Faculty of Arts, Professional and Social Studies as well as outreach colleagues, the partnership is beginning to establish how higher education institutions can better support prospective students from traditionally under-represented groups to go on to further studies post high school and college.
During a celebration event to mark six months of the project and to showcase some of the creative artwork already produced by the pupils, Archbishop Blanch Headteacher, Claire Madeloso, was wowed by the project to date.
Claire said: “We are a very diverse community, and we really embrace the diversity that we have in school. We had this amazing opportunity to be involved in the ‘Everyday Heroes’ idea, and that became the perfect chance for voices to be heard, for projects to start, and a different narrative to happen around school. On the back of the project so far, we’ve seen great student leadership and the opportunity has really helped the students to flourish.
“We’re always ambitious for our students anyway and we push them to think outside the box as to what else is out there. Allowing the students to come to this fantastic facility, and see the education building, will bring a new generation of Archbishop Blanch students to LJMU.
“Hopefully we’ll get them back in the community doing additional work in the future inspiring other young people across the school, but also potentially getting them into teaching and allowing us to have more diversity within education – which is desperately needed in Liverpool.”
The pupils will continue to work with Adam and other LJMU colleagues with a creative writing workshop already in the diary. Plans for them to act as mentors and deliver similar activities to younger children across the city region are also in the pipeline.
It is hoped that this pilot project will eventually be rolled out to other schools in Liverpool, year-on-year, so that a wider range of LJMU faculties can play their part in inspiring the next generation of students.