Caledonian Club improves aspirations to go to University

13 October 2014

Caledonian Club

Caledonian Club

Caledonian Club, Glasgow Caledonian University’s widening participation and community engagement initiative, has improved the aspirations of both children and their parents to go to University, a new research evaluation has found.

As part of the university’s mission ‘For the Common Good’, Caledonian Club works with schools, children and families in the community to raise educational aspirations in young people and their families, and build key life skills and confidence in pupils and student mentors.  

GCU works with five nurseries, five primary schools and five secondary schools across Glasgow and, since its launch in 2008, more than 8,500 children and young people have become members of the club.

Activities with primary schools include animation and digital book projects designed to enhance the school curriculum and concentrate on the development of personal and social skill, encouraging pupils to make informed choices about their futures.

Research Fellow Alison Hennessy used a novel communication framework called ‘Talking Mats’ to interview young children about their views on professions, ambitions to go to university or college and jobs.  Talking mats is a highly visual, tactile tool, which has traditionally been used to help people with communication difficulties to express their views. Dr Hennessy found that it worked very well in this application, as the children were relaxed and enjoyed the game-like nature of the activity.

In addition to the talking mats interviews with children, teachers and parents were interviewed, and questionnaires were used to give a more quantitative approach.  The research compared the views of parents and pupils from schools which were not part of the Caledonian Club and those which were actively involved in Caledonian Club activities.

From the talking mats interviews, Dr Hennessy found that children in schools working with the Caledonian Club had a greater awareness of higher education than their peers, and teachers and parents reported that there were increases in the aspirations of pupils to go into higher education following Caledonian Club activity, as well as improvements in group working and self-confidence.  

Questionnaires revealed that parents of most school children aimed for their children to go to university, however, those with Caledonian Club intervention also had high aspirations to go to university themselves. This reflects the work that the club does with families, and is significant due to the huge effect of positive role models on a child’s future.

Dr Hennessy will present her findings at the Widening Participation in Higher Education Conference 2014 on October 28 at the University of Salford.

Widening participation in higher education is a major component of Government education policy in the United Kingdom and Europe. It consists of an attempt to increase not only the numbers of young people entering higher education, but also the proportion from under-represented groups.