14 July 2014
Cardiff is running a series of summer schools for 14-17 year old pupils who either have an autistic spectrum disorder, are living in care or are from other disadvantaged backgrounds. The aim is to give the pupils a taste of university life and demonstrate to them that university really is for everyone.
Taking place over two weeks (8-16 July), the Cardiff Summer Schools aim to boost self-esteem, to raise academic and social skill levels so as to ease anxieties and to prepare pupils for university life.
Pupils will participate in activities designed to provide them with an insight into studying at university; university staff and student volunteers will equip pupils with valuable skills including communication, teamwork and research.
Helen Wilkie is mother to Adam, who was recently been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and will be attending the Summer School: "My son is in Year 12. He's just sat his AS exams and is studying towards an A-levels in maths, physics and ICT, as well as the Welsh Baccalaureate. I am very hopeful that he will do well.
"I would very much like for him to go to university – he would like to study maths and computer science, but I don't think he really appreciates what university life might be like. It is very difficult for him to imagine his future and he struggles with social skills and acquiring any kind of life skills. The 'taster' days could really help him."
Rhys Jenkins, who graduates this year from the Cardiff Law School, lives with an ASD. He spoke of the importance of schemes such as Summer School to students like himself:
"For people with ASD thinking of applying to university, their minds will naturally be beset with worrying uncertainties: 'Will I fit in? Will I cope with the pressure of studying? Will there be support for my condition?' Schemes such as Summer School are great for allaying those concerns and softening the transition to university life, helping prospective students prepare for those challenges ahead.
"In Cardiff I found a community where I fitted in, a strong support network to help me cope with my condition, as well as a great group of friends which made university life a lot more manageable."
Benefitting over 200 pupils annually, the summer schools are each tailored to a specific need: Discovery (for young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders [ASD]); Confident Futures (for children in care); and Step-Up to University (for children from disadvantaged areas from which there is traditionally a low rate of progression to university).
Each summer school will include an overnight stay in a halls of residence and will conclude with a cap and gown graduation ceremony held in the Hilton Hotel, Cardiff, to reflect on the activities experienced. Cardiff University's Pro Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for student experience, Professor Patricia Price will be awarding students with their graduation certificates. She said:
"Many of the young people who will be attending the Summer Schools have faced a number of challenges throughout school or college. The Summer Schools aim to give young people the opportunity to experience a taste of university life and to understand that university is for all."
The scheme has, since its conception, encouraged over 75% of all participants to apply to study in Cardiff University.
The Discovery and Confident Futures Summer Schools are supported by Reaching Wider First Campus – a widening access partnership operating in SE Wales.