Thomas Rotherham College Case Study
Part of our series of reference stories for teachers and partners
Thomas Rotherham College is a Sixth Form College situated in the Moorgate area of Rotherham catering for roughly 1500 young people, on both full-time and part-time courses. The College offers a wide range of A Levels and Level 3 vocational qualifications such as BTECs, as well as some Level 2 courses. Recruiting from across Rotherham and South Yorkshire, the cohort is very diverse; culturally, ethnically and socially. On average, nearly two thirds of the students who attend the college progress onto higher education. During their time at the college, students have the opportunity to participate in a number of initiatives and activities to improve their employability skills including Rotherham Youth Enterprise Business Challenge.
Perceived barriers to reaching higher education
Discussing some of the barriers students and parents perceive to applying for higher education, representatives from the college highlighted:
- Finance: Many students are concerned by the amount of debt incurred whilst studying a degree. Other students have identified concerns about financially supporting their family whilst at university and the cost of attending open days.
- Lack of confidence: Some students lack confidence in their own skills and worry they are not talented enough to progress onto further study; a number also worry that difficulties they currently face will only worsen at university.
- Uncertainty: Students are unclear of the university requirements. Students studying vocational courses are often under the impression they will not be accepted onto their chosen course.
- Cultural and socio-economic factors: Pre-existing stereotypes can often influence young people’s choices. If parents or family members have not gone to university, students may not see university as an option, preferring to further their career prospects through an apprenticeship or work placement.
Why is higher education important?
“Higher education is hugely important for many of our students as it can improve their life chances, including giving them the opportunity to earn more, as well as helping to develop them personally and professionally. It is a chance for young people to experience the world, network with individuals from varying backgrounds, open their minds to new things, learn new skills and improve their employment opportunities. Higher education is not necessarily for everyone, but it’s important that all our students have the opportunity to make their own choice and are provided with all the information they need.”
Wendy Robson, Senior Student Support Manager, Thomas Rotherham College
“Higher education is hugely important for many of our students as it can improve their life chances”
How will HeppSY+ help?
Thomas Rotherham College already has a number of provisions in place to support students and their career progression. This has included key events over the past year, including a higher education advice evening for Y13 students and their parents, when students were personally invited to the evening and benefited from a talk from HEPP representatives.
“Support from HeppSY+ will help us to create stronger links with the local community to promote and raise awareness of the benefits of going to university. Part of that will consist of allowing students and parents to experience university life on a personal and individualised level, whilst challenging misconceptions and addressing concerns that a particular cohort may have.
“The funding from HeppSY+ will allow us to provide additional academic and personal support to students who may be struggling with their current studies, have low aspirations or need further advice and guidance.”
“The funding from HeppSY+ will allow us to provide additional academic and personal support to students who may be struggling with their current studies, have low aspirations or need further advice and guidance. While we already have some provision to support students on an academic, vocational or personal level, the support from HeppSY+ will allow us to provide additional and targeted provision for those students identified as most at risk of missing out on higher education. This will allow the college to reinforce its ability to provide equal opportunities to all students and strengthen the notions of equality in higher education.
Cerise Walters, Manager for Careers and Employer Engagement, Thomas Rotherham College
HeppSY+ self-assessent and planning
Through the HeppSY+ self-assessment process, Thomas Rotherham College has created the ‘enhanced offer’ targeted at students identified through HeppSY+ work. The enhanced offer will enrich the existing provision at the college and will include events, activities, residential trips and day trips to universities. The offer aims to increase awareness of higher education options and routes, as well as providing both students and parents with more information on financial support, alternative routes to higher education, alternative higher education provisions such as the local colleges, together with accommodation and support available.
As well as enhancing their current offer the college has created an initiative called ‘Experience University’. The programme will be split into two parts: Part 1 for Y12s; Part 2 for Y13s and Y14s. ‘Experience University’ will provide a comprehensive programme to raise aspirations, increase awareness and overcome barriers. The experience will consist of a series of modules that address these issues and provide support for attainment, whilst also creating stronger links between the college and the community.