Since Christ the King Sixth Forms teamed up with private investment firm Metric Capital to provide scholarships to students in need, 15 young people have realised their dream to go to university. David Pearson, Director of Wider Learning, Careers and Partnerships at CTK, writes about how the partnership, which is thought to be the first of its kind between a college and a business, works…
When I first met CTK student Trevor Gomes, he was an aspirational, high-performing sixth form pupil with a promising career ahead of him. But he faced some significant barriers.
Trevor wanted to be the first person in his family to go to university but finances were a challenge for him. Like many young people, he worked part-time to help support his family and would need to increase his hours to fund his additional costs – fees, textbooks, a laptop or computer, and the daily cost of commuting to campus from his parent’s home in south London.
At best his university experience would be a juggling act between studying and paying for it and he would still graduate massively in debt. At worst, the financial barriers would become so overwhelming that he might be forced to give up or not go at all.
University is meant to be an exciting, challenging, fun and rewarding experience. Yet figures released earlier this year found that two thirds of universities have seen a rise in student drop-out rates. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to give up their university courses within 12 months.
Christ the King is a group of three sixth forms in southeast London. The majority of our students are from the London borough of Lewisham which is the 31st most deprived Local Authority in England and among the worst four boroughs for educational outcomes. Around 68% of our students come from a deprived area.
Yet almost 90% of our level 3 students go on to university, including Russell Group institutions. A report by The Sutton Trust placed Christ the King sixth forms in the top 6% of schools and colleges nationally for university progression.
Academic achievement is important, but in addition to this we also aim to develop our students as a whole person – to increase their ambition, opportunities and employability so that they progress to university, graduate and enjoy a successful career.
To do this we have designed a range of aspiration-raising programmes. One of our most innovative and successful to date has been our partnership with Metric Capital.
Creating new firsts
We were introduced to Metric Capital, a private capital firm, through CTK student Seni Fawehinmi. Seni met the firm’s Managing Partner, John Sinik, through an American mentoring scheme called Big Brother, which briefly set up in the UK.
They stayed in touch and five years later Seni came to study at CTK before going to university and embarking on a successful career in finance. He told John about the challenges that many of his fellow students faced. Like him, they wanted to go to university but there were a lot of economic sacrifices that they, and their families, would have to make in order to do so. When he heard this, John wanted to help.
After meeting with our Executive Principal Shireen Razey to discuss ideas, they developed the Metric Capital Scholarship Programme, to provide financial aid for academically able students from deprived backgrounds with university aspirations. It is thought to be the first partnership of its kind between a college and a business.
Every year up to three students are chosen for the programme and given £15,000 each – £5,000 a year. Since the partnership was formed in 2014, 15 students have been awarded the scholarship, totalling more than £250k in funding from Metric Capital.
The aim of the scholarship is to cover living expenses, to enable students to focus on their studies and not have to work full time while trying to achieve academic excellence. It also helps to pay for expensive items like textbooks and laptops to facilitate learning.
There is no expectation for students to work at Metric Capital after graduating. However, the firm encourages them to keep in touch and hosts regular events where current and former scholarship students can get together to share their experiences and successes.
Putting partnership into practice
Rolling out the programme was fairly straightforward and communication between the college and Metric Capital has been key to ensuring a successful partnership.
John relies on us to select the right students for the scholarship and we do this based on academic achievement, aspirations and financial background. When we introduce our students to the Metric Capital team, they already know that each one is academically strong and in need. That means that the vast majority of the students they meet are awarded the scholarship, helping to reduce the disappointment of not being chosen.
At interview, John and his team are looking to understand each student’s motivation and to make sure they know that there’s an element of responsibility attached to the scholarship. Students must achieve a certain academic standing to continue to the next year and they are expected to provide a termly report to Metric Capital.
The main challenge for us has been selecting the students. There are many who need, and deserve, support, so it can be difficult for us to choose the candidates. Ultimately, we look for students who have experienced challenges – personally, financially or both – have improved academically and have shown dedication to their studies.
Seeing the results
So far all but one scholarship student has either graduated from university or is still studying. Not only has the funding enabled them to go to university, it has helped to enrich their experience, graduate with less debt and go on to thrive in their careers, in areas such as consulting, accountancy and computer science.
It has been incredibly rewarding for us to see the progression of the students who have successfully completed the programme. One of them is Trevor Gomes.
After being awarded the Metric Capital scholarship, Trevor went to the University of Westminster to study Business Management in 2015. He graduated with a first-class degree and was the highest achiever on his course out of 500 students. He then joined BT, where he now works as a Transformation Analyst in the Transformation Project Team. He is also a 5G Transformation Leader for EE.
Trevor, now 23, is a member of Christ the King’s Partnership Board, helping to steer our partnerships strategy. In October, he launched his own skills development programme, ELEVATE, with support from BT, which aims to equip our students with the skills, knowledge and experience required for the world of work and higher education. So far 14 of our students have benefitted from the face to face ELEVATE programme and its new virtual webinar series is aiming to reach more than 1,000 students.
Trevor’s motivation is clear – he wants to help young people, just as he was helped.
For other colleges or sixth forms considering a similar partnership, I would say that it has been a hugely successful and rewarding programme to be involved in. My advice would be to keep in close contact with the students during the course of their studies, and to make sure someone is there to offer further support if needed.
Keep in regular contact with your partner too and provide opportunities for them to be involved in the college. For example, John is a member of our Partnership Board and attends regular meetings. This enables him to see what’s happening at the sixth form and the current challenges that our students are facing.
Stay in touch with your alumni, encourage them to remain involved in college life and to give something back by helping current students. Our alumni sit on our Partnership Board, visit the campus to give motivational talks, offer mentoring support and provide new links to employers and this works exceptionally well to raise aspirations.
We are looking forward to continuing our successful partnership with John and Metric Capital in the future and having the opportunity to see even more of our students achieve great things as a result of this scholarship.
Our Partnership Board, which is made up of successful alumni, business representatives and employer partners, meets regularly to explore other ways that we can use partnerships like this to benefit our students, whether that’s financially, through developing employability skills or by providing mentoring or other support.
For example, our Fast Track Programme provides a two-day employability coaching programme and the opportunity to gain experience of a corporate working environment and forge links with leading organisations such as Santander, Barclays and BT. We also work with local charity Urban Synergy to host inspirational mentoring events which bring together a wide range of professionals to offer support and guidance.
Our Barclays RISE programme provides skills development opportunities and insight into working in professional industries. And our External Speaker Programme brings together guest speakers who are experts in their field across a range of industries. Engaging with businesses helps to provide a breadth of excellent opportunities for students. As we have found, there are many different and innovative ways that successful partnerships can enable students to realise their dreams.