New Leicester education centre to provide opportunities for city’s young people

Young people in Leicester will have a greater chance of realising their ambitions thanks to a new education centre in the city.

Dame Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who herself overcame barriers during her school days to forge a successful career as a space scientist and broadcaster, was chosen to open the IntoUniversity Centre, in Beaumont Leys.

Leicester’s IntoUniversity centre is a collaborative partnership between IntoUniversity, the University of Leicester and De Montfort University. The initiative has been funded thanks to a number of generous donors including the Randal Foundation, founded by Dr Nik and Moni Kotecha, and the Ian and Clare Mattioli Charitable Trust.

The centre will provide young people access to after-school academic support, mentoring with university students and professionals, in-school aspiration-raising workshops and enrichment and work experience opportunities.

Dame Aderin-Pocock, who is the University of Leicester’s Chancellor and attended 13 different schools and had undiagnosed dyslexia as a child, cut the ribbon at the opening, before telling school pupils set to benefit from the centre to aim high when it comes to education.

Dame Aderin-Pocock, who is a co-presenter of BBC Sky At Night, said:

“I know the enormous power of education first-hand. Having dyslexia, I was placed in a class for those with additional needs. I also went to 13 different schools because my parents split up when I was young. It was tough, but it was because of education and the inspiration from lots of amazing teachers that I was able to get my GCSEs and A-levels and then go on to university.

“The IntoUniversity centre here in Beaumont Leys is an amazing place. The centre’s staff, and all of the people at Leicester’s two universities who are involved, are dedicated to helping inspire the young people to dream big, and crucially, will support them to help them realise their dreams.”

The centre caters for school pupils aged seven to 18 who live in deprived areas of Leicester. Around 40.6% of children in Leicester are living in poverty, with Beaumont Leys being one of the 10% most deprived places nationally. The local progression rate into Higher Education is just 34.2%, compared to 44% of students nationally, making the area a prime location for an IntoUniversity centre.

IntoUniversity has a proven track record of improving access to and attainment in higher education for students facing disadvantage, and currently supports over 50,000 young people each year at their 41 centres nationwide.

61% of students who attend IntoUniversity centres go on to progress to university, compared with 28% of students from similar backgrounds nationally.

Dr Rachel Carr, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of IntoUniversity, said: “We’re delighted to be officially launching this new centre in Leicester North, building on our already successful work in other parts of the Midlands.

“Launching in a new city is always an exciting time for the charity, during which we’re building relationships with schools, parents and carers, local community groups and of course the wonderful young people.

“We’re delighted to be able to support many of these young people to develop a love of learning and build the skills they need to bring their talents to the fore and ultimately reach their potential. Thanks to our partners the University of Leicester and De Montfort University for making this all possible.”

Professor Katie Normington, Vice-Chancellor of De Montfort University said: “Ability, curiosity and talent is everywhere but opportunity is not and we know this to be particularly the case in Leicester. We see changing this as one of the most important functions a university can provide and so it is really exciting to be able work together to open this centre and help ensure that opportunity is as widely available as possible in our region.”

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester, said: “This is a fantastic and much-needed resource for Leicester.  Too many talented young people miss out on the opportunity to continue into Higher Education because of lack of opportunity.  This centre will make a real difference to the lives of so many young people and we are delighted to be working with our partners to ensure that those students that wish to come to University can do so.”

Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL, Chairman of The Randal Foundation, which provided significant grant funding to enable the project to take place, said: “Beaumont Leys is one of the 10% most deprived places nationally, which like so many parts of the UK often creates invisible, impenetrable barriers; preventing children and young people from reaching their full potential.

“At the Randal Foundation we’re dedicated to breaking down these barriers, which is why we’re so delighted to have supported this educational project.

“We believe that no matter where children and young people live in the world, their background, gender or ethnicity, they should have access to schooling and learning. At the same time we also want to aid social mobility and end the poverty of opportunity in the UK.

“Projects like this are helping children and young people to recognise their worth and full potential, so they are equipped to build the skills and vision for their future success by following their dreams and finding their passions through education and learning.”

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Young people in Leicester will have a greater chance of realising their ambitions thanks to a new education centre in the city.