Shaping aspiration

1 October 2018

SHARE with Schools
Since 2011, 3,778 pupils have benefitted from almost 200 workshops, delivered by 194 student volunteers

Students break down barriers to university with SHARE with Schools project

An innovative project led by Cardiff University students aims to break down barriers to higher education through the delivery of regular outreach visits and fun educational workshops.

SHARE with Schools is delivered by postgraduates and undergraduates in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Together they have established sustainable partnerships with five secondary schools in Cardiff and the Cynon Valley and run hundreds of outreach workshops in a total of 13 schools over a six year period.

The workshops, designed by postgraduates and co-produced with teachers in partner schools and heritage institutions such as The Cardiff Story Museum, are delivered annually, first in partner schools before bespoke university visits offer first-hand experience of a higher education institution.

Community and Engagement lead in the School, Dr Dave Wyatt said: “The project really is about trying to break down barriers and address the challenges faced by young people when considering coming to university – but driven by other young people who have come to university, some of whom have faced and overcome very similar challenges. Our new film shows just what the project means to pupils and student volunteers alike.’

Since 2011, 3,778 pupils have benefitted from almost 200 workshops, delivered by 194 student volunteers. The pupils learn about what it is like to study at university through fun interactive workshops that relate to their own heritage such as Life in the 19th Century Welsh valleys, Cardiff during World War One and Life in Iron-Age Wales.

Former postgraduate student and pupil of Blaengwawr Comprehensive, Dr Cath Horler-Underwood co-founded the aspirational project: “I helped to establish SHARE with Schools when I was a postgraduate research student studying in Cardiff. I was aware that many young people from my old school, and others who grew up in the area, felt that University was simply out of their reach. I was very keen to help change this perception and to show – from my own personal experience – that higher education is certainly achievable.”

The project currently serves partner schools in the Cynon Valley as well as four schools in Central and West Cardiff, including Cardiff West Community High, Cathays High and Fitzalan High. The project has further benefitted from the support of heritage organisations like Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery whose artefacts have made sessions come alive for countless participants.

Speaking about the long-established partnership, Head of History at Cathays High School Gareth Taylor added: “We serve an inner city catchment and a lot of our students won’t be the pupils who naturally assume they are going to University. A lot of them will be the first generation to hopefully go on to University. So that opportunity to ask questions, to find out about university life and to have some of their fears or lack of knowledge helped by these sessions is really good for them.”

Now entering a new phase, the project is looking to expand its operation to include two primary schools in West Cardiff as well as developing fresh strands through new partnerships with University research projects like the Heritage Lottery Funded Views of an Antique Land and CAER Heritage.

To date SHARE with Schools has benefitted 168 undergraduates through the hands-on experience of developing and leading a wide range of workshop sessions. A further 26 postgraduate students have increased  their employability skills, gaining invaluable experience in project management and training through their coordination of the project.

The project is also inspiring a new generation to enter the teaching profession. Switched on by direct classroom experience, a number of students are now pursuing teaching qualifications and entering the profession across the sector.

Head of the School of History Archaeology and Religion, Professor James Hegarty said: “SHARE with Schools is a wonderful example of the great experience that university has to offer. Not only does it give our students incredibly rewarding workplace experiences linked to our latest research, it also delivers for our wider community, the teaching profession at multiple levels and the civic mission of the University.”

SHARE with Schools continues to expand its activities, developing new activities in a wider range of schools this coming year.

Working in tandem with the project is Exploring the Past, one of multiple pathways opening up routes back into education for students later in life.

Find out more about SHARE with Schools in this co-produced film, made in partnership with film-makers AOTV.