Final week at the Brilliant Club: Interview with David Jones
My final post is an interview with David Jones, the Teaching and Learning Manager of The Scholars Programme. David’s first job after university was for a charity which runs low cost Saturday schools. He then trained to be a teacher and taught in a primary school in South London. David left the classroom with the intention of working for an educational organisation which turned out to be The Brilliant Club.
How did the Scholars Programme come about and how is it run?
The Scholars Programme came about from the work of two teachers – Jonathan Sobczyk and Simon Coyle who participated in the Teach First training programme. They spotted that within the classes they taught, there were pupils capable of going to highly selective universities, but weren’t doing so. The charity’s overall mission is to mobilise the PhD researcher community to tackle the issue of fair access to highly selective universities. The charity now runs two programmes – Researchers in Schools which is a teacher training route for PhD graduates and The Scholars Programme. Through The Scholars Programme, we recruit, train and place PhD researches in non-selective state schools to deliver university style tutorials.
What are the biggest challenges of running the programme?
The biggest challenges tend to be around the logistics, such as matching up the availability of tutors and schools. For the pupils, the programme is a challenging experience as the work they are required to complete is pitched at a key stage above one they are currently in, and pupils are also required to produce an extended final assignment. Running the programme in areas rural and coastal areas is a bigger challenge, as the distances that people have to travel to get to the schools becomes much greater.
What direction is The Scholars Programme heading in?
We are excited to expand the programme to Wales – we now work across the whole of England which we are very proud of, as it is not just an urban programme. We worked with over 8500 pupils last year and we are setting ourselves the challenge of taking in a bigger cohort of students.
Do you monitor the destinations of students who participated in the programme?
Historically, this isn’t something we’ve been able to do in a systematic way. We know pupils who have completed the programme and gone on to study at highly selective universities such as Oxbridge and LSE. However, this is an area that we are currently trying to improve through the newly formed Monitoring and Evaluation department. One of the tools we are going to use is the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT) which is going to be available to third sector organisations in 2017. HEAT is a national database that universities currently use to track all their outreach activities. This will allow us to see the destinations of the pupils that we work with in a more systematic way. The tracker will also allow us to investigate the effectiveness of sustained interventions over time.
Why is charity work appealing to you?
I don’t think it’s right that the school you go to, or the background that you are from should limit or advantage your opportunities. The statistics clearly show that people who have been to independent schools are overrepresented at highly selective universities and in a number of professions. I am motivated by ensuring that all pupils have the same opportunities and succeed on the basis of their ability, determination and their choices.
The best part of the job is going to the graduations to see pupils that completed the programme; hearing them talk about what they learnt, challenges they overcame and seeing how proud their parents are of them.
It was an absolute pleasure to work at The Brilliant Club for 4 weeks. It was inspiring to see the hard work that goes into running social mobility programmes and it is an area I am considering as a potential career. I would like to thank The Brilliant Club and the Charity Insights Programme for this fantastic opportunity, which enabled me to develop a wide range of transferable skills.