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Partner programme Surrey Scholars wins an award

Partner programme Surrey Scholars wins an award

Here at Brightside, we work in partnership with other organisations to give young people access to inspiring mentors on our online mentoring programmes.

Online mentoring is a great add-on to already existing interventions as it provides ongoing support during the university application process.

Recently, the University of Surrey won a NEON Widening Access Initiative (Outreach) Award for their Surrey Scholars programme. We caught up with their Widening and Participation and Outreach Manager Rob Thatcher about the impact of the programme.


We’ve been working with Brightside since 2015 because the online mentoring complements our summer school programme. It’s a great way for young people to network outside of the programme in a safe space.

The purpose of our summer schools is to create a sense of community and belonging, and to raise young people’s aspirations. Brightside’s mentoring is a crucial part of that. The online mentors can answer individual queries and grow the confidence of young people thinking about applying for university.

We also use Brightside’s platform for a number of other projects because it’s so versatile and easy to use. It became a vehicle for our under-16 outreach too. We noticed that they needed much more structured discussions so created a project based on the functions the app already had.

We even developed a European Connect programme in the 2020 lockdown to connect widening participation students with international recruitment target schools. Young people in the UK were matched with students in Spain, Italy, Greece and even Australia. That project gained recognition from the Office for Students for best practice during COVID.

But the programme that won the award was Surrey Scholars. It’s a sustained programme of extra-curricular outreach for students in Years 10 to 13. Learners receive support with GCSE and post-16 study in addition to advice and guidance towards progression into higher education and beyond. It’s open to young people who are either in receipt of free school meals, care experienced, a young carer, a member of GRT community and/or a refugee or asylum-seeking young person.

The national average of FSM students’ progression to higher education is 27%. Our local percentage was 18% and for young people who have been on our programme, it’s 42%. This is the impact the summer schools and online mentoring is having.

100% of students felt confidence in personal statement writing, an increase of 71% across all post-16 participants. 81% of Scholars were planning on going to university following the Year 10 programme and 57% of Year 10 programme participants went on to successfully complete our Year 11 GCSE Masterclasses.

Here’s what one of our Scholars in Year 13 said:

 “My mentor was able to give clear, in depth information about how to apply to uni and the student life. I found this INSANELY useful as it led me to applying early!”

Working with Brightside has been really good. The team are very receptive to new ideas and have a can-do attitude. It’s a really collaborative partnership built around the strengths of the online platform.

We’re proud to have won a NEON award for Surrey Scholars. It’s been years of hard work and it’s great to see recognition for that. It’s given us a great platform as a university to evidence how our intervention has an impact.

We knew we were on to something but it’s great that everyone else knows now, too.

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