Our work with schools
What we do
The Department of Politics and International Studies is very active in schools outreach work. We have world-leading researchers across the whole of our subject field who are only too happy to give their time to bring their expertise to bear on issues that have captured the imaginations of today's younger generations. Our dedicated staff members watch with a mixture of pride and satisfaction when school-aged students who begin a session saying 'I'm not interested in politics' or 'I don't understand politics' prove to themselves how deeply political the thoughts are that they already harbour about the contemporary world. We show students that politics exists everywhere that there is contestation over how we should live our lives, and we empower them to trust that they have something of value to say in relation to those debates. Our greatest successes come when we allow students to see that politics is for everyone and not just for those people who they see on their television going through some strange rituals in the House of Commons.
We are keen to engage with our participating schools in a number of different ways. Ongoing pandemic conditions will clearly limit our ability to visit schools to provide sessions in person in the near future; the same is also likely to be the case throughout academic year 2021/2022 for our set-piece events at venues of national significance. In their place, we have made a series of recordings for schools to request. They all reflect our desire to help school-aged students become more confident in finding their own political voices, giving them the resources to hold increasingly informed opinions on many contemporary controversies. Students will already be aware from their school curriculum that issues such as climate change and the fallout from Brexit are intensely political, but they might have become increasingly frustrated about how to think through such issues from scratch without being sidetracked by the din emerging from posturing politicians. We have recordings either already made or at the planning stage on what the route to net zero really means if we are committed to ecological justice for future generations and what British democratic traditions might look like post-Brexit as it struggles to break free of the controversies of the referendum campaign. But what about Britain's public statuary, the position its sportspeople now so often take in relation to racial justice, the act of national apologies, the choices we make about what music to listen to, even James Bond? How are all these things political, and how do we learn more about them if we view them through a consciously political lens? Our experts are on hand to explain these and many other issues.
We are also aware that the decision to target a place at university can be daunting for everyone, but especially so for students who will become the first member of their family to do so or who live in neighbourhoods where school leavers typically do not go on to higher education. We are also available to talk about what it is like to study at university, how this differs from being at school, and how it is possible to prepare yourself for this big leap into the unknown. You can meet everyone in our Department from undergraduate students to seasoned professors who remember what it was like for them when they were in the same situation and how they were able to conquer their fears about university and found their own sense of belonging when there. Our programmes are designed to foster an understanding of what the university experience will be like, as well as to encourage the type of critical analysis that flourishes there. They are further designed to help students develop key skills which will help them in their current studies.
Who we work with
We will never consciously turn any school or its students away, and you should always ask if you think that there is a way in which we can help you. However, it remains the case that our priority will always be to align our activities with attempts to close current gaps in access to university. For many decades now, it has been a settled finding of research that the UK's university entry system works much better for students who attend schools in more affluent areas and best for those who have enjoyed the greatest advantages in their schooling. Persistent educational inequalities have been accentuated by the experience of Covid, and anyone who is committed to tackling asymmetric sources of access to university must recognise the need to redouble their efforts in the years ahead as we hopefully begin to live more like we once did. Many of the advances that have been made towards greater equality of access to university in recent years have been threatened by the differential ability of schools to carry on as normal during the pandemic.
We have developed a reputation for working with students from a diverse range of backgrounds in an attempt to enhance access to university for those who come from communities that remain underrepresented within higher education. This is seen not only by our pattern of engagement with individual schools, but also in the organisations with whom we routinely partner. We have always sought to give priority to working with non-selective state schools, and this is also reflected in the events we run with organisations such as the Sutton Trust and the Political Studies Association who share our objective of countering educational inequalities.
For more information and to see whether we can meet your needs, please contact the Department's Widening Participation Officer, Dr Shahnaz Akhter. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.