Education remains one of the most powerful tools in society. Our city’s schools do a fantastic job of teaching and supporting learners across Bristol. Educational outcomes are rising, and more young people are going on to further and higher education. Bristol is full of brilliant minds. But the national cost-of-living crisis and the difficulty in accessing warm, quiet study spaces at the end of the school day, remains a challenge.
At the University of Bristol, we wanted to come up with a creative solution to this problem and make an active contribution to the city’s Welcoming Spaces network. We wanted to evidence our commitment to creating spaces in which young people could come together as a community, support one another and find solutions to shared problems. For us, that meant funding the development of a homework club.
We knew from our sponsorship of the IntoUniversity Bristol East and South centres that there was a demand for this kind of support, with many families on waiting lists. We knew we had a team of people with the experience and enthusiasm to help. And we soon realised that any provision needed to be based within the heart of communities, without expecting young people to travel to the University’s buildings.
So, we came to the Wellspring Settlement in Barton Hill, one of the city’s 100 Welcoming Spaces. A thriving community centre, the site on Ducie Road was the perfect venue for what’s become a homework and learning club for Year 9 to 13 students. Many of those who come to the club attend nearby schools such as City Academy, Bristol Brunel, and Bristol Metropolitan Academies. Others live in the area and attend schools further afield, including Cotham and St Mary Redcliffe & Temple. All are able to access individual coaching and support from the IntoUniversity team, take part in group work and work on collective challenges.
The University, with the support of philanthropic donations, has provided free laptops, Wi-Fi, learning materials and funded members of IntoUniversity staff. Up to 50 young people a week are attending the sessions which started in February and will run for the rest of the academic year. The young people who attend are able to use their time to complete course work, prepare for exams and meet new friends.
We hope that the sessions will continue to provide the space and support the city’s learners needs. We look forward to exploring the potential to expand this model to other parts of the city, working with the council to ensure social justice, educational equity, and inclusion for all.