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Learners must aspire to university at younger age, says research

Learners must aspire to university at younger age, says research

Children are twice as likely to attend a ‘higher tariff’ university if they are certain they wish to progress on to higher education at the age of 10.

A study by UCAS found that learners who aspire to higher education aged 10 are 2.6 times more likely to end up at a competitive university than those who develop this ambition in their late teens.

The study also found that the most advantaged young people are more likely to be focused on university at a younger age than their more disadvantaged peers.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS Chief Executive, said: “This report is clear: the earlier children set their sights on university, the more likely they are to go. We need to reset the barometer reading for progression to HE to a much earlier age – 10 or younger. Having a focus on university helps provide the rationale for working hard and doing well at GCSEs which is the strongest predictor of success in higher education.”

ASDAN is currently working on an innovative project that aims to raise the career and education aspirations of young people aged 10 to 12.

The Lift Off programme is being developed with The Progression Trust and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which has provided funding of £147,000 over 18 months.

This programme is designed for primary school age learners at Key Stage 2 (Year 5/6) who are about to make the transition into Key Stage 3 (Year 7) at secondary school. It develops a ‘whole person, whole journey’ approach to progression and achievement, rather than solely focusing on academic attainment.

Kath Grant, ASDAN Director of Education, said: “This UCAS report makes for very encouraging reading ­– it helps consolidate the view that raising the aspirations of people needs to happen at a young age.

“This is exactly what we are trying to achieve in the Lift Off programme. By developing awareness at the age of 10 of what careers are out there, children are more likely to have greater aspirations. This in turn leads to higher attainment at school as well as the development of the types of qualities and skills learners need to achieve their career aspirations.”

A national conference to disseminate the findings of the Lift Off programme pilot will take place on 15 November in London and will be addressed by Sir Tim Brighouse, former London Commissioner for Schools. To find out more about the project and to book a place at the event, please email