By Daisy Saunders
I always enjoyed high school. It wasn’t a high school that achieved the best grades or the best OFSTED reports, nonetheless the staff were friendly and encouraging. The environment was safe and the students (mostly) got on. During school, the idea of what to do after was always a daunting one. One of the routes to go down was going to university, which, in the end, was what I did. Yet this wasn’t the easiest, or most obvious of directions. Out of my high school year, less than half of us went into further education.
I’m not suggesting that university is the right option for everyone; it’s expensive, it’s hard work and even a little scary. However, what has become apparent to me since leaving school is that it is something which is not necessarily talked about or encouraged much in state school education. 96% of privately educated children go to university compared with 16% of children on free school meal plans. And only 5% of these children on these meal plans are going to Russell Group universities!
In my case, university was definitely the right decision. I’m currently reading English at the University of Exeter. Exeter is a wonderful place to study and live. However, I didn’t realise that it is a university with one of the lowest state school intakes in the country until after I started. Whilst this shouldn’t intimidate state school students, such as myself, I cannot deny that had I known I may have been more apprehensive in applying.
I’ve been lucky enough to make amazing friends whilst at university, from a variety of different backgrounds. Nevertheless, sometimes the difference of educational background between me and my peers is apparent, if not even a little daunting.. It highlighted to me how easy it could be for students from state school education, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to feel inadequate and incompetent. There is simply not enough done in the education system to encourage self-confidence and faith in individual student’s ability. That’s why organisations such as CoachBright are so important!
I joined CoachBright during my second year at university, and it was one of the best things I’ve done during my university career. My fellow coaches and I were trained and educated in what makes a good coach. We are not there to give our coachees the answers but to instead encourage questions. We are not there to show off our own knowledge but allow the coachee to shine, by providing a friendly, positive and reliable figure to turn to. It was beyond rewarding watching my coachee’s confidence build and develop week by week and see how he became so willing to share ideas and opinions on his work. It became so apparent that spending a little time each week helping and listening to a student can really make a difference to their self belief.
Not only is CoachBright rewarding for the students, but it has also given me so much more confidence in my ability as well. It has developed my skills in organisation, patience and time management; essential skills for any job you go into. It has also driven my passion in tackling educational inequality. It is an issue that is very evident in this country and not enough is being done to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds to stay in education and apply to universities.
So volunteer! It’s a chance to do something different, meet likeminded people and try something new. Education is something that every child should have a right to and we need to be more aware of reality of the inequality in educational opportunity.