Comedy icon teams up with universities to launch new learning centre
09 Feb 2023
Local universities, donors and comedian Peter Kay join forces to help social mobility at launch of new learning centre in Salford
A new learning centre officially launched in Salford yesterday (Wednesday, 8 February) is set to empower thousands of young people to achieve their academic and career ambitions.
The facility, located in The Beacon Centre, is a collaboration between the University of Salford, The University of Manchester, and national education charity IntoUniversity to provide long-term educational support to young people facing disadvantage and who are typically underrepresented in higher education.
The launch event brought together young people who will benefit from the centre, their parents and guardians, donors, organisers and local supporters.
Guests were also surprised by a special video message from award-winning comedian and Salford alumnus Peter Kay, who himself had a life-changing experience by going to university to study Media and Performance.
Working closely with local schools, businesses and universities, the centre offers long-term support to young people aged 7-18, helping them to discover their focus, build their capabilities and ultimately have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Support offered at the centre includes after-school academic support, mentoring with local university students and professionals, in-school aspiration-raising workshops and enrichment and work experience opportunities. Once established, the centre will support over 1,000 students per year.
Salford was found to be the 18th most deprived local authority in England, out of 317, according to the Government's 2019 Index of Multiple Level of Deprivation. Figures suggest around 22% of children in Salford are living in poverty (Greater Manchester Poverty Action, 2022). Pupils facing disadvantage in Salford are now 22.9 months of learning behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs (EPI, 2020), making it a high-priority area for this additional educational support.
IntoUniversity centres have a strong track record of improving outcomes for young people in England. 66% of school leavers who attended IntoUniversity centres in 2021 went on to progress to university, compared with 26.6% of students from similar backgrounds nationally.
Attending the launch were around 25 students aged 7-18, all set to benefit from the centre for the next academic year and beyond, with some of them delivering speeches.
Primary school students took part in a variety of activities during the event replicating the type of activities they will be engaging with in the year ahead during after-school academic support sessions. Secondary school students came up with questions about future study and careers to survey attending guests.
Peter Kay offered some sound advice for students at the centre, telling them: “There’s a lot on offer at IntoUniversity to help young people achieve their potential and realise ambitions they may have never even considered.
"For all the children benefitting from the centre, my advice would be to take every opportunity you’re offered. You’re never going to know what will come up in life and you might fall in love with something you’ve never thought of. You’ve got time to explore many new subjects - keep your options open because you never stop learning.”
Professor Helen Marshall, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Salford, said: “As a university, we have a strong track record in the area of widening participation and are motivated to helping students realise their full potential. We are proud to make a major contribution to providing access to higher education across Salford, the North West and nationally.
“I am delighted to support the launch of a new IntoUniversity right here on our doorstep in Salford. The new Centre will engage traditionally under-represented groups and aid our mission to give all students the best possible opportunity in life to succeed.”
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, our President and Vice-Chancellor, said: “University education is a transformative experience for individuals, and for the prosperity of our local communities, so we are really enthusiastic about this new partnership with IntoUniversity in Salford.
"It adds to the existing IntoUniversity Centre we support in North Manchester, which has already supported more than 2,500 students with their academic work since autumn 2018.
"I’m very grateful to the staff, students and donors who have helped make the Salford Centre happen and who will ensure its ongoing success.”
Dr Rachel Carr, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of IntoUniversity, said: “We are delighted to have officially launched this Centre in Salford Central, building on our existing work in the Greater Manchester area. The young people of Salford have so much to offer, but circumstances can mean they don’t get the same opportunities as other young people to reach their potential.
"We’re delighted that through this unique collaboration between local universities, we can provide many young people in the area with the support they need to succeed. We’re looking forward to continuing to build partnerships with schools and families in the local community and supporting students to achieve their ambitions.”