In today’s tough job market, finding the right information to make the best decisions about education and employment is more important than ever. That’s particularly true for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, whose friends, families and even their schools aren’t always in a position to provide the support that others take for granted.
Education is one of the single biggest factors affecting a young person’s chances in life. But unfortunately, access to education in the UK remains unequal. Class background still influences people’s life chances and compared to other countries, the UK is not “socially mobile”.
Only 7% of young people attend private schools yet they are still vastly over-represented at leading universities, and in a number of jobs and key professions. Research by the Sutton Trust found that 45% of top civil servants, 68% of UK-educated barristers and 75% of judges were educated in independent schools. Meanwhile, the 2009 Fair Access to Professions report found that only 16% of students at the Russell Group of research intensive universities are from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Too many young people have no ambition to progress in education beyond 16, or lack access to the networks of peer support and advice available to others. Brightside believes that every young person should have access to the information and encouragement they need, so that they can take control of their own future.
Brightside works across the UK to connect trained volunteer mentors with disadvantaged young people online, in order to inform them about their options, inspire them with role models and empower them to set goals and achieve their potential via education, employment or training.
We define disadvantage socially, culturally and economically. This includes young people who are eligible for free school meals, those with no family history of higher education, or whose schools have little experience of sending students to further or higher education.
Our programmes also support specific groups including children in care, student parents, young offenders, disabled young people and those Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs). Brightside has supported over 15,000 students through our projects over the last seven years, and our aim is to increase the diversity of intake at the UK’s universities and to break down barriers to the most socially-exclusive careers: meaning that the make-up of these professions becomes more representative of society as a whole.
Brightside harnesses the power of the internet to reach and engage our target groups. Many young people today are ‘digital natives’, accustomed to seeking information and interacting with others online. Brightside’s tools and resources are a trusted source of information and advice available to anyone online, while our mentoring projects provide a personal and long-lasting relationship which is responsive to a student’s individual needs.
Mentoring is a positive experience for both mentees and mentors. Mentees receive psychosocial support, develop skills and gain knowledge and confidence. Mentors can share their own experiences, improve their communication skills and see the impact of their support first hand. Read some testimonials and the Big Deal Blogs case study.