Favour, an A Level student at Trinity Catholic School, has been supported by a national project to consider options that she might not have felt were open to her before.

Favour has been engaged in activities with the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Programme (DANCOP) since she was in year 10, studying for her GCSEs. Now in year 13 and studying A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths at Trinity Catholic School in Nottingham, Favour is applying for university despite being the first person in her family to do so. She believes that working with DANCOP has allowed her to make informed decisions about her future and realise that she is able to go to university and reach her goals.

DANCOP is a collaborative partnership between local universities and colleges, and works with young people in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to develop their skills, knowledge and aspirations around higher education – prioritising learners’ ability to make an informed choice about what is right for them in the future. DANCOP is a partner of the Uni Connect Programme, a national network of hubs across England which offer impartial advice, guidance and activities on the benefits and realities of higher education in college and university.

Through a variety of workshops and interactive sessions, learners are encouraged to explore their options and think about their own aspirations and abilities. DANCOP also works with and funds third party providers like IntoUniversity, to give learners the opportunity to get out of the classroom and into a real university environment. Through this partnership, Favour and her classmates have been able to access workshops covering university life, choices and pathways, budgeting and student finance.

Favour believes programmes like DANCOP which offer impartial advice and guidance are hugely important in supporting young people like her to progress.

‘My teachers at school are amazing, but it’s been great to have an external input from people outside of school to help inform us about our future options and tell us about their experience of university.’

The information given to young people like Favour is designed to help them break down barriers they might have that prevent them from engaging with higher education, and build up their confidence to help them to reach their goals. DANCOP aim to open up a world of possibilities through a range of higher education opportunities, particularly for those learners who feel that university might not be the right option for them. For many learners in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, higher education can feel a world away – even where parents and carers are keen for their children to progress. ‘My parents have always wanted me to go to university as I will be the first in my family to go,’ says Favour. ‘But knowing how to apply, what university is like and to understand student finance can be really complicated’.

Having access to one-to-one support on UCAS applications, personal statements and university choices has helped Favour to apply to study a degree in Biomedical Sciences, a course that will help her reach her career goals. ‘My big dream is to work in a hospital laboratory; I want to help others with whatever I achieve in the future’.

When asked if she had any advice for younger learners, Favour reflected on what she tells her younger siblings: ‘Make the most of every opportunity and don’t leave things to the last minute!’ By taking the opportunity to develop her knowledge and skills she feels more confident, and is excited for her next steps towards higher education and an exciting career.

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