More than 100 students from disadvantaged backgrounds celebrated at university event

Richard Gould, chief executive of Villiers Park with Mike Baker, scholar of the year and first stude

Richard Gould, chief executive of Villiers Park with Mike Baker, scholar of the year and first student to graduate from the programme, the Lord Mayor of Norwich Councillor David Fullman. Photo: Andi Sapey - Credit: Andi Sapey

The achievements of more than 100 academically-able pupils from areas with low participation rates in higher education were recognised in an end of year celebration at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The year 10 to 13 students, from seven Norfolk schools, are all members of the Scholars Programme, run by UEA and Villiers Park Educational Trust near Cambridge, which is designed to help build participants' skills, confidence and aspirations and encourage them to move on to higher education.

Laura Anderson, programme manager in UEA's outreach team, said: 'Programmes such as this play an important part in helping pupils overcome the hurdles that so often prevent them from fulfilling their potential

'They are 2.5 times less likely to enter higher education than pupils from the most advantaged backgrounds, so this is all about ensuring that young people's futures are determined by their ambitions and ability, not by their background.'

According to the government's Indices of Deprivation study, Norwich ranked 323rd out of 324 local authorities for social mobility and Great Yarmouth is one of the 20 lowest-ranked local authority districts.

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Nationally, in 2014/2015, just 33pc of students who are eligible for free school meals achieved five or more A*- C grades at GCSE (including English and Maths), compared with 61pc of all state-school students and 65pc of all pupils.

'The Scholars Programme is just one of the ways that UEA is working to address these issues,' said Ms Anderson.

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'By working with the scholars' schools and families, we provide support ranging from individual mentoring to residential workshops. The evidence of its success is that 70pc of our scholars have applied for university and almost all are planning to move into higher education. And the impact reaches their fellow students too, with the scholars often becoming catalysts for change in their schools.'

The end of year celebration was attended by the scholars and their families, and the Lord Mayor of Norwich was also there to recognise their success.

One pupil from each year was named Mike Baker Scholar of the Year - Callum Davenport (Y10) Hellesdon High School, Busranur Serin (Y11) Hellesdon High School, Skye Manzie (Y12) City of Norwich School and Henry Goldsmith (Y13) Ormiston Victory Academy.

'I feel as if the programme has been extremely beneficial for me and has helped me to improve on balancing my workload,' said Jarra Bardsley, a year 12 scholar from the Thetford Academy.

Gabrielle Weyer, a year 13 scholar from Open Academy, added: 'I have found mentoring sessions about university useful because mentoring has helped me understand more about university, apply and write a personal statement.'

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