Case study: HEON

Introducing higher education to Year 9

Higher Education Taster Days

A series of activities, hosted at all of HEON's partner institutions, bringing learners on campus for informative pathway sessions and exciting subject tasters.

The Higher Education Outreach Network (HEON) has risen to the challenge of introducing the diverse higher education pathway options to Year 9 students in a clear, concise way, as well as raising their aspirations.

Since the beginning of the NCOP project they've been running a series of Year 9 HE Taster Days. Each day is aimed at small groups of target students and follows a format of mixing information sessions, campus tours and subject taster sessions.

Developed in response to feedback from teaching staff and the experiences of partner institution outreach departments, these extremely popular days are hosted on a partner institution campus e.g. University of Surrey.

Each day begins with an introductory session that showcases the different levels of higher education and offers examples of university and apprenticeship options. While discussing these options we highlight how different routes can lead to higher education and future employment - for example, how a Level 3 apprenticeship could lead to a Higher/Degree apprenticeship and then a job opportunity with an employer.

The programme continues with an interactive campus tour led by current undergraduates where learners explore state-of-the-art facilities, get an insight into student life and have the opportunity to hear the experiences of higher education students themselves.

The afternoon is dedicated to engaging and contrasting subject taster sessions from a variety of our partner institutions, recent examples included Drone Flying Psychology, Wearable Letters, Electronic Engineering and Animal Handling.

HEON taster day activity
HEON taster day activity
HE Taster Day activities

Each of our six partner higher education institutions have hosted this event, and in total it has been delivered 11 times to over 200 target students from 10 different schools.

Through our attitudinal and knowledge based evaluation methodology we have determined that an intervention of this nature can alter the perceptions of higher education in learners and make university or a degree apprenticeship feel more obtainable. Student feedback has shown us that our HE Taster Days are effective in imparting knowledge of routes and the advantages of higher education – as well as dispelling many of the myths associated with study at the higher level.

Other benefits of the HE Taster Days include the opportunity for different partner institutions to collaborate together and offer local NCOP learners a broad overview of subjects and options available to them.

In response to feedback and the success of these days, HEON has developed stand-alone apprenticeship assemblies and workshops that enable us to offer much more detail on non-university higher education routes. These activities include looking at live local vacancies, comparing degree and apprenticeship advantages and – for Year 9 students – an interactive activity where they design their own apprenticeship.

What the students said:

I’ve learned…

“Not to be worried about going to university”

“The different courses that are available”

“You can earn as you learn by doing an apprenticeship”

“The different levels of HE such as an apprenticeship”

“There are lots of opportunities other than university”

Today was useful because…

“It will help me to decide which university to go to”

“I found out what you can study in the future”

“I will be more confident when I go to university”

“When I finish my GCSEs I have some idea of the choices available to me”

“If I feel that I don’t want to go to university or can’t afford it, I can take another pathways”

HEON covers the areas of: 

  • Surrey
  • North East Hampshire

Visit the HEON website

Twitter: @heonpartnership

Instagram: heonpartnership

Case study author: Jonathan Plummer, Central Coordinator, HEON

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