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Bloggers wanted!

Members are invited to contribute blogs to our newsletter and to the FairAccess website.

This can be about a a topic of current interest in widening access and participation in your current sector,  a research or project activity in which you are currently engaged or really anything else that you feel would be of interest to other members to share.

Articles should be between 500 and 1000 in length. Please ensure your article is approved by your institution. SCAPP reserves the right to make any appropriate edits to text.

If you would like more information or to discuss please contact Muriel Alexander at

Latest blog

Estranged Students Solidarity Week 2023

Susan Mueller, Stand Alone

Estranged students deserve to be heard and understood. Stand Alone’s Estranged Students Solidarity Week is for universities, colleges, student unions / associations and higher education sector organisations to reach out to those who are studying without family support.

This blog by Susan Mueller (Stand Alone) discusses the aims of Estranged Students Solidarity Week (27 November – 1 December 2023) , and how you can get involved.

Read the Blog post, here.

Added to blogs October 2023

Supporting estranged students to survive the cost of living crisis

Susan Mueller, Stand Alone

In her blog for Blackbullion Susan Mueller, Higher Education Project Director at Stand Alone, explores how the cost of living crisis can affect estranged students disproportionately because they don’t have access to the same resources other students do and ways in which higher education providers can help.

Added to blogs June 2023

What does the journey to a million mean for widening access in Scotland?

Alison Train, Assistant Director, LEAPS (Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools)


Alison Train, Assistant Director, Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS) examines what the Journey to a Million means for widening access in Scotland. Alison reflects on increased competition in the Scottish context, her work on the ground with students in advice and guidance, and streamlining the sector’s approach to determining characteristics.

You can read this on the UCAS website, here.

This piece sits within UCAS’ series on the Five Big Challenges: #1 Widening Participation 

Added to blogs April 2023

The power of social media in opening the widening access conversation

Lorna Lamont, FOCUS West

Social media has become a phenomenon in the 21st century. Almost every single young person has at least one platform on social media whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or Twitter. Just a decade ago social media was in its infancy so why has this become the case today?

The instant content, the new knowledge, the exciting information, the constant interaction, and the freedom of creativity. Using social media, particularly for young people, is a place of expression and a way of learning about the world, what’s out there, and how to take on new opportunities.

The pandemic elevated social media as one of the remaining ways to communicate and interact with people outside of your house. Not only was it an escape from alarming circumstances, but it was a way to learn, engage, and project your creativity. New trends were emerging and innovative content was being posted that young people were highly engaged with.  And social media isn’t just a platform for posting a selfie or uploading a photo of your gym progress. Instead, it is increasingly becoming an educational and informative platform, with or without its users being consciously aware. But how?

Take Tik Tok, for example. You don’t have to be following certain people to see the content they produce, due to the ‘For You Page’ tab, and with the increase in time allowance, creators now have up to 3 minutes to produce a fun and informative video. Since the pandemic, there has been a huge upsurge in the desire to visit new places, eat at new restaurants and just get back into exploring the world. TikTok has acted as a guide; people are posting videos recommending where to go, what to eat, and what the best things are to do, however it’s not just the place for marketing holiday destinations or places to try a tasty new dish.

Tiktok and other platforms have also become a tool in educating young people about the diversity of society and the push for equal opportunities. In summer 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, came the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign. This was a movement that engaged millions of people across the world, and particularly got young people consuming content that related to the problems existing in society. Instagram provided a major platform for expression of solidarity within this movement when as a sign to show support and alliance with the BLM campaign, people began to post a black square on their page. This visually effective symbol of solidarity provided a launchpad for conversations around inequality and racial injustice; people were prompted to engage with the educational content that was being produced to inform them about ways in which they might unite against injustice and how they might act to further support the BLM campaign.

Might such a powerful tool be used for schools then, specifically as a tool to showcase the opportunities available for widening access pupils? Not all pupils may be fully aware of the support they could get to help them access higher education. For those who have access to devices and data, could social media help to plug this information gap?

The benefit of using a social media platform to market and advertise access opportunities is that it is widely accessible for many secondary school pupils, and by creating an exciting and innovative video, reel, or photo story, it can present the options in a way that pupils are comfortable with. Sometimes young people may be reluctant to access support offered through schools because they perceive a negative association relating to their own status – however, if we were to use social media to market opportunities via relatable content, it has the potential to alter pupil perceptions as the ‘top down’ associations are largely removed.

The platform used would have to be appropriate to the target group; popularity fluctuates and Facebook, for example, is not widely used by teenagers in the way that it was when it launched. Where Twitter was once popular, it’s use by teachers and schools has given it a formality that young people shy away from. This is why it would be more beneficial to use social media but use current university students or widening access pupils leaving school to create and post the content, because it will continue to be their own platform that they have the freedom to express information on, without feeling overshadowed by educational authority. At the moment, Instagram reels and TikTok videos would appear to provide the best opportunity to engage pupils, but this is bound to change and change quickly as young people find new and more interesting and engaging platforms when they engage with content.

So how might we use social media in widening access?

Let’s take Instagram for instance. Reels are becoming increasingly popular on this platform because the video content allows for more expansion on the information being broadcast and brings more scope for creativity to the posts. Might UCAS or admissions staff use this to show the adjustments made to entry requirements for widening access pupils, perhaps by screen recording an example of a UCAS page looking at a specific course, such as Primary Education, and showing the difference between the standard entry requirements and the minimum entry requirements, at some example universities. To make this even more effective, it would be engaging for young people to see and hear other young people who are creating this content. Admissions at universities could enlist the help and creativity of current students to create reels, making it more relatable.

There could also be content created for the transitional support into university for widening access students, with the additional funding opportunities, support with accommodation, and the help students can receive once they start their university course. Where pupils may have disengaged from school, or with what they perceive to be the authoritarian voice, if they are scrolling through Instagram and come across another person their age talking about how to take advantage of the opportunities available to them, it could just be the hook that motivates them to investigate further.

These are just a few examples of how we could take advantage of social media, but we do need to be aware of the potential pitfalls; to think carefully about how this is presented and get the balance right between positively showing the additional support and opportunities available to widening access pupils but trying not to present it as a ‘hack’ or a way of getting into university unethically. If other young people watching the posts get the sense that widening access pupils are being unfairly, it could potentially create some conflict.

This means, when using social media, it needs to be clear who the target audience would be, what is being posted and by whom – by using other students in creating the content, they would be well placed to relate to and understand how it would be perceived by the audience.

Instagram and TikTok could be very influential platforms for widening access pupils over the next year or two, particularly coming out of the pandemic, because it is a place for pupils to access information on how they can reach higher education and how they can overcome the challenges and barriers they face.

Where pupils may have disengaged from school, or with what they perceive to be the authoritarian voice, if they are scrolling through Instagram and come across another person their age talking about how to take advantage of the opportunities available to them, it could just be the hook that motivates them to investigate further.

Girls are destined to be teachers while boys are destined to be businessmen, it’s just what nature says

Lorna Lamont, Focus West Development Worker

In the week of International Women’s Day  (10 March 2022) I thought it would be fitting to discuss the topic of gender.

Gender in the 21st century is something that is widely discussed and constantly evolving. Historically it was simply seen as two parts: male and female (Wood & Eagly, 2015). However, in modern society we have grown and learned the variation and spectrum that gender can be, including identities such as non-binary and trans-gender (Young Scot, N.D).

Looking at gender within the context of education however, it has historically created a divide between boys and girls at school, due to the institutionalised sexism within the curriculum and education system (UNESCO, 2021). This has resulted in a negative effect on the development of all boys and girls regarding their understanding of gender and the aspirations or achievement they might make.

Emily (14-year-old girl) enjoys maths and science at school, she dreams of becoming an engineer when she is older and loves the idea of working with cars. But she is the only girl in her class that has chosen to take Physics at Higher next year. She is worried she will be picked on or laughed at by her peers and she doesn’t want to feel isolated within the classroom. What can she do? She needs Higher Physics to be able to continue with her dream of being an engineer, but the way society has socialised girls within her life, is to be interested in English and writing. Why is this the case?

Emily is experiencing a common feeling a lot of girls have while studying at school and choosing their subjects, because she doesn’t fit into societies box of what being a girl involves and what she ‘should’ enjoy. But where has this stemmed from?

Gender stereotypes. Stereotypes have been engrained in society from many years ago, and still to this day, they are impacting the way in which young people develop, particularly in education. Boys like blue and girls like pink (Alan et al, 2018), is the instant stereotype we associate with each gender. Girls are brought up in an environment being taught to be caring, nurturing and empathetic towards everyone, being told they will become teachers or work within the creative industry (Alan et al, 2018). Meanwhile, boys are taught to be rough, playful, and cheeky, being led towards the more practical or science-based routes at school and told they will become rich and successful (Alan et al, 2018). What impact is this having on these young people at school?

Firstly, it creates something called a ‘glass ceiling’ for girls (BBC, 2017). The glass ceiling is a term that has defined the way in which education and other institutions has limited the achievement of females. Within school, this is exhibited through lack of representation of female teachers in subjects such as science and maths, whilst also gearing girls towards more creative pathways. By not representing women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) subjects, it means females lack a positive role model in that field, and if they are interested in this area, like Emily, then it can create worry or stress about potential isolation or mockery. Women are brought up in a society that teaches them that men are the breadwinners and are there to earn the income, while women are the nurturing, caregivers, whose career isn’t as important (Tabassum & Nayak, 2021). At school, this majorly impacts girls because they might not see their education or their career ambitions as worthy or something they are capable of.

The misconceptions and gender stereotyping within school has created a gender-based educational attainment gap. With girls it has created an underachievement of certain subjects, with research highlighting the specific low grades in physics, in comparison to other subjects where they present high achievement (Hofer & Stern, 2016). This was suggested to potentially impact their academic careers and severely restrict their future opportunities, highlighting the effect the glass ceiling can have for such young females. This research suggested the reasons for underachievement in specifically physics was due to low interest and low self-concept in this subject, echoing the already made point of how girls are deterred away from this subject choice, and through socialisation and traditional gender stereotyping, they don’t believe it’s in their domain to achieve well in the STEM subject field (Hofer & Stern, 2016).

But not only does this negatively impact the girls and limit their aspirations, it inhibits the achievement of boys.

Sammy (16-year-old boy) has become the class-clown, he is always the joker and shouting out in class to try and make his classmates laugh. He finds it funny to distract his peers, and his teachers only giggle and brush it him off as ‘typical Sammy’, ‘boys will be boys’. Sammy hasn’t been told that his misbehaviour is limiting his ability, he is very intelligent and could do very well in his subjects and exams, but his teachers have had to put him in the lower sets for most subjects to try and manage his behaviour and not distract the higher achieving students.

By encouraging boys to be playful and cheeky, it can easily lead them down a route of misbehaviour and lack of concentration in the classroom, and Sammy is just one example of this. When boys are growing up, their parents and teachers encourage them to be rough and ready, and don’t prepare or teach boys to be emotionally sensitive (The Children’s Society, 2020). Through this, it gears boys towards a harsh working environment and prepares them to deal with the brutality of these types of jobs. For example, working within business you need to be confident, demonstrate leadership qualities, and have thick skin when it comes to dealing with negative situations (Stobierski, 2021). This is what boys are socialised to be when they are growing up, and at school if they are the class-clown or taking the lead within the class, this is seen as something admirable and entertaining. Sammy was positively reinforced by his peers and teachers, with the giggling behaviour, and whilst this teaches him that he has the authority and dominance over the class environment, it has led to the underachievement of his own potential.

The misbehaviour of boys and encouragement of this type of attitude, has led to the underachievement of boy’s attainment in school. Research has shown boys typically demonstrate difficulties self-regulating and paying attention in class which has led to lower predictions in average academic achievement (Owens, 2016). This research particularly highlighted how behavioural problems in boys aged 4-5 years-old, was a factor in what is leading to the current gender gap in education and schools by the age of 26-29 years old (Owens, 2016).

But its not just as simple as overcoming the gender stereotypes. It is not just a case of two extreme gender identities of male and female. As we know, the 21st century is an ever-evolving society where people are beginning to express their gender identity more confidently and publicly (Young Scot, N.D). Therefore, we, as members of society and those that work within education, need to be aware of new challenges that these people may face and be sensitive to the changes we should be consciously making. This can include small changes, such as gender pronouns, so being aware of how we use he, she, and they. But also more institutionally, we need to be active in advocating for freedom of gender expression and encourage people to aim for their ambition regardless of gender or the stereotype associated with that.

What can we do now?

By simply starting the conversation about gender and the educational attainment gap, we can begin to see the cracks in our system. We need to highlight these and call out the institutions for where they are being unfair and unequal. We need to normalise the expression of gender and personal interests, without the over-arching presence of out-dated gender stereotypes. Everyone, regardless of gender, deserves to achieve their highest potential, and have the unbiased support and encouragement, from educational professionals, their family, and society at large, to be able to reach this.

SCAPP thanks to Lorna Lamont, FOCUS West, for supplying this blog

White Water Writers: A ‘Novel’ way to Raise Aspirations

Dr Yvonne Skipper, Senior Lecturer in Psychology (Education), University of Glasgow

Have you ever wanted to write your own novel?  Have you even started drafting something but run out of steam after the first chapter or two? Well, the White Water Writers project has helped more than 2,000 young people write and publish their own novel, and they have managed to complete it in just one week.

White Water Writers is an intervention based on psychological literature on learning and motivation.  We give groups of 8-10 young people the opportunity to collaboratively write and publish a full-length novel in one school week.  Our authors spend Monday developing the storyline, designing characters and planning the novel at the chapter level.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, they write the novel using specialised software. Each author takes charge of a character, rather than a chapter in the novel and this helps the book to have a consistent ‘voice’.  On Thursday, the authors proofread their novel, checking for any issues with the plot and spelling/grammar mistakes. On Friday, the authors do a final read through, produce a biography and decide on the title and blurb. We also work with professional illustrators to provide the cover based on a brief from the writers. The book is then made available for sale with any profits going to the authors or a charity of their choice, and a few weeks later we host a book signing which is attended by friends and family to celebrate the authors’ amazing achievement. As one author said “To publish a book, truly is a dream come true.  This project has enlightened me in many ways and will be a memory I will treasure.”

A key element of the project is that no adult touches a key or offers any suggestions on the plot or storyline. Every idea, word and yes, every mistake belongs to the authors themselves.  This makes the task authentic and engaging for our authors and they work very hard. Recently, eight pupils at Lochend High School produced more than 27,000 words in just one week!

We give our authors free rein to explore the topics which matter most to them.  Our novels have explored inequalities in society, bullying, falling out with friends and family, and even climate change.  As the plots are fully developed by our young authors, they allow us to explore their views on these important topics.

The project has a demonstrable positive impact on writers’ soft skills such as teamwork and working to deadlines. As one member of staff said, “I was so impressed by how well our young people collaborated with each other. Being given so much independence and ownership over their work really motivated them. It has been a joy to see how much their confidence in their own abilities has been boosted. Everyone is really excited about the finished novel!” It also enhances their literacy, and even their aspirations. As one of our writers recently said, “I’m not taking a C in English now I have wrote a book”.

In England we are currently funded by Higher Horizons, which is part of the National Collaborative Outreach Partnership with a widening participation remit.  We work with students from specific postcode areas and targeted groups who are less likely to attend University.  In Scotland, our current funding also targets learners who are disadvantaged in some way. Participating in WWW can give our authors the skills and confidence to consider applying to university.

Furthermore, the week-long camps are typically delivered by university students. This helps the students to develop their skills and experience in working with young people, and also allows our authors to meet people from a university. Over the course of the week, they often have informal conversations about what university is like and how to apply. This, coupled with the achievement of writing a book in a week can encourage them to consider whether university might be a path for them, thus widening participation.

In terms of recommendations for others setting up similar programmes, we believe that some of the most powerful elements of the project are the teamwork, independence and authenticity of the task.  While working in a group can be a challenge, the authors simply could not achieve the goal of writing a book in a week without working as part of a team.  They have their own area of responsibility and have to trust that others will do their work.  While this is often an adjustment, over the week, they learn more about their own skills and the skills of others and start to self-manage and develop collaboration skills which are so important in education and the workplace.

Furthermore, at the beginning of the week, the authors also often do not believe they will be able to achieve their goal, or they think there will be some sort of ‘trick’ where we have produced some text and they simply need to edit it. When they first realise what they need to do, it can produce some anxiety, but each task is set by the facilitator and is easily achievable. Over time, the facilitator steps back and the authors begin to self-manage and fully take ownership of the project. The fact that the book is really their own work is very powerful, and encourages them to do their best. They even engage with proofreading, though they generally do not enjoy it!

Lastly, the fact that the task is authentic, that the books are put up for sale online and the authors can get royalty cheques and real reviews helps them to feel real ownership and engagement in the project.  Having professionally copies of the novel presented to them at a book signing also makes the task ‘real’ to them and sharing them with family allows them to showcase their achievement.

If others are looking to set up similar projects, we suggest developing projects where the young people have real control over the project, shaping the topic and methods themselves. We also believe in the importance of young people having something tangible to take away. Our authors have copies of their books, and this reminds them of their achievement long after the project is complete. We hope this inspires them to take on challenges in the future.  As another author said, “I really enjoyed this project and will never say ‘I can’t’ again”.

If you would like to learn more about the project or know of any groups who may want to be involved, please contact Dr Yvonne Skipper

With thanks to Yvonne for contributing this blog.

The Robertson Trust: The Mentoring & Tutoring Landscape in Scotland – A Call to Action

Shelby Brown

As one of Scotland’s largest independent funders we are keen to see where we may be able to add value to the sector. The Trust has identified mentoring and tutoring as two key areas of interest in one of our strategic themes, Educational Pathways. We commissioned an evidence review with the Poverty Alliance on the landscape in Scotland as a first step for us to identify gaps in provision. You can view the report here.

This work looked at the landscape of mentoring and tutoring approaches across Scotland and the UK. From this research we developed a number of recommendations to address some of the challenges identified. The key findings from the report include:

  • Mentoring and tutoring both have quite different landscapes in Scotland.
  • Mentoring is a complex and fragmented landscape. Mentoring provision is not equally spread throughout Scotland. Some rural areas have no access to this type of support, widening the gap for those experiencing disadvantage. It has been shown that dedicated mentoring support can have a positive impact on young people’s personal outcomes.
  • The term ‘mentoring’ is difficult to pin down. Organisations may be providing mentoring but not recognising it as this. This can make it difficult to work with other organisations in the sector who are doing similar work, which creates a gap in joined up service delivery.
  • Funder practices can cause problems for organisations working in mentoring by not providing flexibility and funding often being short-term. This results in organisations being unable to develop long-term mentoring relationships.
  • Tutoring on the other hand has a sparse landscape in Scotland.
  • High quality one-to-one support has been shown to be the best and most cost-effective way to address the attainment gap.
  • The UK Government has launched the National Tutoring Programme in England and Wales. This provides additional tutoring support to the most disadvantaged students. However, there is limited third sector organisations in Scotland providing dedicated tutoring support that is free and accessible.

We want to work alongside universities and colleges to support their work with students. We have spoken to upwards of 30 organisations and are keen to continue to hear from professionals in the sector. As a funder we would like to see what difference we can make and ensure that our approach is well informed by practice and experience.

Creating a network of professionals where we can share best practice will support the ongoing work in the sector. This would enable us to begin mapping mentoring and tutoring provision across Scotland. We can then identify if or where the gaps are and find ways to address these in a collaborative way.

The Lead of Educational Pathways, DonnaMarie Steel and Hazel Robertson presented findings of the Discovery Work to the SCAPP network in December. There were some key insights from these conversations that we would like to address going forward.
Below are some of the key takeaways from the conversations on tutoring at the SCAPP event:

  • There is a demand for more tutoring provision by universities as part of their WP programmes in schools.
  • More effective collaboration and networking within the sector is needed. Many professionals are unaware of what is happening across Scotland. A mapping of the landscape would be helpful in identifying provision and gaps.
  • There are limited resources on what is good practice in tutoring. It would be beneficial if there was a ‘how to’ guide to support professionals in this area.
  • Funding was identified as a key barrier when looking at the tutoring landscape. There were frequent references towards a lack of flexibility from funders.
  • Longer term funding is needed and will enable the development of long-term relationships.
  • Tutoring provision tends to be more directed towards generic programmes. There is a need for tutors to have subject specific knowledge to best support young people.
  • Some schools may provide one-to-one tutoring by teachers or teaching assistants, but we know that many schools struggle with staff capacity.

Much of the conversations that were had at the SCAPP event echoed the report finding. Our next steps include continuing conversations with key stakeholders and beginning the process of mapping the current provision across Scotland. This will enable us to have a better understanding of the mentoring and tutoring landscape. It will also support us to build a collaborative network of professionals in the sector.

We want to continue having these important conversations with stakeholders. If you would be open to sharing the work you are doing in this area or would like to find out more about our work, please contact Shelby Brown. We would love to hear from you.
Contact details:

Thanks to Shelby for contributing this blog for SCAPP

Towards an Anti-Racist Curriculum

Dr Karen Campbell (Research Fellow,  Glasgow Caledonian University)

Dr Campbell highlights the pressing need for universities to tackle widespread systemic racial inequalities and outcomes in higher education and outlines GCU’s whole-institution approach to change, part  of which includes a focus on the curriculum as a key structural enabler.

Click here to read the article

Building Belonging in the post-pandemic landscape

Dr Karen Campbell (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Dr Campbell explores ways of embedding a sense of belonging among students as they make transitions into and through higher education. Drawing on research and highlighting specific aspects of Glasgow Caledonian University’s approach, the paper discusses key challenges and opportunities for building belonging in the post-pandemic student experience and offers practical examples and activities that could be introduced in other institutions.

This article can be found on the QAA Membership Resources site

You can read this article here

Widening Participation: unpacking a portmanteau concept

Dr Karen Campbell (Glasgow Caledonian University)

In her most recent blog, Dr Campbell, explores the current use of the term ‘Widening Participation’ in the context of implications for policy and practice in the post-pandemic landscape.

Read more about this here

College Connect – transforming the transition programme for online delivery

Farah McAdam

In 2021, Farah McAdam and James Moohan, College Connect Development Officers at Glasgow Caledonian University, delivered one of SCAPP’s Lunch and Learn events about how they transformed their Transition materials for articulating students into online mode.

Here, Farah reflects on their work and how by using Articulate 360 they turned their programme into an accessible, interactive and  virtual offering.

Read Farah’s article here


Building a Widening Participation Practitioners’ Network during a Pandemic

Muriel Alexander, SCAPP

Muriel Alexander, SCAPP Development Manager, reflects on her first 12 months or so in her role, what has been achieved so far,  and looks forward to meeting colleagues for a proper coffee and not just a virtual one

Read the article here


Identity Matters

Dr Karen Campbell (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Read this post from Dr Karen Campbell, Research Fellow in Educational Research and Evaluation at Glasgow Caledonian University. This post draws on her recent HERD publication, Higher education learner identity for successful student transitions.

Read Identity Matters here

Capacity building at the hub of university transitions

Dr Karen Campbell (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Read this post from Dr Karen Campbell, Research Fellow in Educational Research and Evaluation, Glasgow Caledonian University which argues that university preparedness  is best supported when learners are immersed in the university experience when learners experience studying HE level qualifications within a university environment pre-entry

Read the blog here.


Moving Widening Participation Outreach Online: Challenge or Opportunity

Jon Rainford, University of Bedfordshire

Read the blog here.


Our Hub Model can Transform prospects for Young People in Care

Lorraine Moore, Manager, Hub for Success, Edinburgh Napier University

This article appeared in The Scotsman on 2 July 2020

Read the article here


Why Widening Participation Matters More than Ever - view from the Scottish HE Sector

Laura Cattell, Head of Widening Participation, University of Edinburgh

This article, published on FACE website (Forum for Adult and Continuing Education),  summarises how Covid-19 has heightened the value and necessity of widening participation

Read the article here.