The theory behind our little moments

Eilis O’Donnell, Director of Programmes and Delivery, describes how IntoUniversity’s programmes facilitate the little moments which lead to a big impact.

At IntoUniversity, we’re currently taking the opportunity to celebrate all of the little moments that take place across our centres every day, which add up to the big impact we all aspire to achieve. Hearing about one of those little moments never fails to bring a smile to my face. Who doesn’t love hearing about Year 6 students making a (loud) dash for spinning chairs at a Russell Group University? Who wouldn’t be moved by the thought of a boy finding connection with a fellow Hindi-speaker in Brighton? And I get goosebumps when I think about those students that visited the Royal Courts of Justice and now want to be barristers. How much better off would we be as a society if they achieve that dream?

Just imagine if any one of those little moments turns out to be the moment? Like in a Hollywood film – time slows down, everything comes into sharp focus, our hero sees their future clearly for the first time. Awesome! At IntoUniversity, we’re certainly here for those moments. But we’re also here for all the other ones. Like the rainy Thursday when you forgot your PE kit and had to wait ages for your bus. At the end of the day, members of IntoUniversity teams will be there, ready and smiling, to greet our children and young people. WeThey will celebrate their small wins, commiserate their setbacks, and build up to their bright future ahead. Our teams will be there to listen and remember the small important details: How was the football match? How did the French test go?

For most people, your future isn’t decided in one single life-changing moment, but is the culmination of decisions, effort and opportunities over time that shapes your path. At IntoUniversity, we aim to provide the culture, environment, programmes and relationships over the long term that add up to transform the lives of young people.

Everyone I work with has a wealth of stories of these little moments. It’s no surprise, because we’ve designed our programmes and way of working precisely to create space for these little moments of magic to happen as frequently as possible. 

The acute, deep and ongoing effects of the global pandemic and cost of living crisis are painfully apparent and re-confirm our commitment to creating as many magical little moments as possible. The negative impact on both students’ wellbeing and mental health, as well as attainment has been widely reported (EEF, 2022). The Sutton Trust surveyed over 6,000 teachers back in 2022 and reported that 72% of those working in State schools in areas with the highest levels of deprivation thought the cost of living crisis and associated impact on pupils would increase the attainment gap at their school. 

Our place-based centres and model mean we are ideally placed to provide support to young people facing these tough challenges. We work with young people from the age of 7. We do this because we know that young people’s aspirations matter. We recruit compassionate staff who form excellent relationships with young people. Secure and trusting relationships provide young people with the safety needed to learn.

We design our programmes and train teams to use evidence-based practices. For example, we know that metacognition is strongly correlated with improved attainment. Simply put, developing metacognition is about learning how to think about what you are learning, to understand what you already know and what you need to do to learn more. One way we design this into action is through our ‘Future Readiness’ Award for Secondary students: young people design, implement and evaluate their own projects. They are supported to try a range of tools, such as knowledge organisers, and are guided through reflective practices all designed to build their metacognitive skills. By focusing on their own interests, they are encouraged to develop a love of learning alongside critical skills to take back into their school classrooms. 

We’re incredibly fortunate to have fantastic partnerships with universities and businesses which offer experiences to our young people that are rich, diverse and inspirational. These experiences include our Big City Bright Future internship, which provides over 120 students each year with a life-changing career opportunity to work in a top firm in the City. Being based in communities means we can bring these opportunities directly to where our young people live. We are there for the long term and part of the local fabric. 

So when I hear that those IntoUniversity alumni have become barristers, I will not be surprised. But I will be incredibly proud.

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Eilis O’Donnell, Director of Programmes and Delivery, describes how IntoUniversity’s programmes facilitate the little moments which lead to a big impact.