"Amazing, Life-changing, just incredible"


Folashade Stockton


Higher Horizons is a partnership of local universities in Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire that delivers higher education (HE) outreach to young people. Since the launch of the Uni Connect Programme in 2017, Higher Horizons have engaged with over 30,000 young people across the three counties, delivering over 4000 free and funded HE information, advice and guidance activities across over a hundred schools and colleges. Higher Horizons is the leading provider of impartial university outreach in the region. The focus of our work is learners who reside in wards identified by the Office for Students as statistically unlikely to attend university even though they are likely to secure the grades needed. The common barriers to Higher Education for these young people include restricted access to impartial and reliable information, advice, and guidance on careers and education options, restricted access to academic and practical support needed to facilitate education transitions, and they also often lack experiences and connections that their more advantaged peers can access with ease.


Folashade Stockton, a student who attends Cheshire College – South & West, is just one real example of the many learners we engage with who faces these problems. She grew up in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, living with her single mum and nine siblings. Ellesmere Port is an area where nearly half of the residents are from the DE social category (working class and non-working) with an unemployment rate that is almost double that of the national average.
During school, Folashade experienced people commenting on her family, saying they had a bad reputation and ruling her out of being a success because of her family ties. When she was in high school, Folashade struggled with her mental health and had to take some time out due to being diagnosed with Schizophrenia. During this time, she had to move high schools and repeat year 11, as well as moving home as the diagnosis resulted in her being moved into care. Despite this she achieved 5 passes at GCSE and went on to study Painting and Decorating at college so she could work for her sister who was a Plasterer. Folashade’s college teachers quickly identified that she was capable of going to university and were impressed with her love of learning and commitment to her studies. They told Higher Horizons that Folashade was the first person in the door and the last person to leave, arriving early to study in the library, and asking for recommendations of books to buy so she could learn more. When asked what gave her this drive, Folashade said she wanted to be a good role model for her younger siblings, like her older brother had been to her. Folashade’s parents had not gone to university and like many other learners that Higher Horizons supports, she felt a lack of knowledge about how to get there. After receiving support from her personal tutor and careers advisor at college, Folashade decided that she would move to a level 3 Engineering BTEC to ensure she achieved a qualification at the right level to progress to higher education. Despite this support however, Folashade still felt that navigating the application process to university was out of her reach and that her overwhelming thought was ‘I can’t do this’.


The college reached out to Jess Newton, a Project Officer at Higher Horizons’ Chester Hub to explain Folashade’s situation. To date, we have worked with Folashade through nine interventions as part of a sustained programme of engagement. Activities have included an online HE talk that delivered information, advice and guidance about higher education generally, and one-to-one mentoring over the last twelve months on the UCAS application process, choosing between university courses and institutions, entry requirements, and financial and pastoral support whilst at university. These interventions have been delivered in partnership with a third party provider, Alta Higher, whose founder Lindsey Smith was funded by Higher Horizons to work on a one-to-one basis to provide Folashade with the vital support she needed.


Higher Horizons has an ambitious aim and a large part of the country to cover with its outreach message. It is important when engaging with thousands of learners that we learn about the personal impact our work can have and further understand the journey our learners take to Higher Education. Folashade knew she loved engineering but was unsure what the options were for continuing the subject after college, thinking that her only option was an apprenticeship. Through the interventions Higher Horizons put in place she was able to understand the routes into higher education, and the different types of engineering that could be studied, leading to Folashade making an informed decision to apply to study Medical Engineering.
Prior to this support Folashade had no knowledge of the different types of universities and once she learned about Russell Group universities, she was not going to apply to one, thinking they would be out of her reach. With the support and guidance provided through Higher Horizons’ interventions, Folashade not only gained the knowledge she needed to decide to go to university, she also developed her academic skillset needed to raise her attainment. She told us that she went from procrastinating to being the first to hand in homework and assignments, and actively wanting to do her work as soon as it was set rather than leaving it until a later date. After our interventions, Folashade achieved Distinction* across her BTEC Engineering modules and has been offered a place at a Russell Group University, the University of York. ‘Honestly I don’t think I’d be here without Lindsey, her advice was amazing to be honest. It all makes a lot of sense now and it just built my confidence and taught me a lot’, says Folashade, when asked if she feels prepared to enter HE now she said ‘100%, yes, 100%’. Folashade, like many young people we work with, has the promise and drive to go to university, but is sometimes, especially during transitions, struck by moments of self-doubt and low confidence compounded by fears of navigating an unknown landscape. Through the range and breadth of its activities, Higher Horizons have endeavoured to make sure that Folashade, and many young people like her, are not excluded from HE due to their limited social and economic capital. Folashade’s teachers tell us that they think she ‘is the perfect example of anybody who wants to achieve as she put in time and effort, listens to feedback and acts on it’. We feel proud of how much she has achieved so far and are excited to see where her future takes her, along with the many other young learners we continue to have the pleasure supporting in the region. Higher Horizons July 2022

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