Image of a school group during a university workshop

 by Jessica Cook
, posted On 13 Feb '20
 Careers Officer at Swindon Academy and a consultant for UniTasterDays

A school perspective on university liaison – my top tips for universities supporting schools with Gatsby 7

Thanks to the Gatsby Benchmarks, careers in schools is now high on the priority list. I thought it would be useful for me to share my top five tips for universities on how they can best support schools to meet benchmark 7 (Encounters with Further and Higher Education).

1) Make your offer as time effective for schools as possible

One of the biggest barriers for careers professionals is the amount of time they have available. Some schools will have given the role of Careers Lead to a teacher who is often trying to juggle teaching hours, planning time, marking work and everything that comes under ‘careers’! Partnering with a university that values their time and keeps form filling (and other admin based activities) to a minimum will be massively advantageous to a school.

2) Make your offer adaptable to the student group you’ll be working with

Taking the time to understand the student group the university will be working with is really important. All schools will have high achieving cohorts through to at risk of NEET students, students where English is their second language, SEN students… All of these cohorts deserve the chance to hear about the option of studying at university, but the way you communicate/engage with each group may differ. The list of different student groups is endless and the key to running a successful event for a school is to understand the group you’re working with and what the school is hoping to achieve from the event for that particular group.

3) Be clear with the school on what input you need from them

Being upfront from the beginning about the amount of time, resource and staffing you will require from a school will make a huge difference to the success of the event you are running. Everything gets booked in a school so far in advance that if you email By the way, we will need a computer room for our event next week to a school, there is a very high chance that will be impossible to arrange and the event will have to be rescheduled or cancelled.

4) Be flexible with your approach

Creating resources that can be adapted to suit different groups is both time saving for universities but also means you are able to widen your offering to schools. If you have a topic that can be run with Year 7 through to Year 11, that you can amend to suit each age group, this will often be greeted with open arms from a school, especially if it is the first year they are working towards Gatsby Benchmark 7. It’s also important to remember that schools know their pupils best, often universities won’t work with Key Stage 3. If you have a request from a school to work with this age group, understand that it is for a reason and try to be flexible in what you can offer.

Engagement visual

5) Ensure the activities you’re offering are as engaging as possible

Remember, you are not speaking to university age individuals. The students you are working with may be as young as 11 and, on the whole, will engage far more with an interactive activity rather than a ‘death by powerpoint’ style presentation. Take the age of your cohort into consideration and imagine what you, or your children, would have enjoyed at this age.

I hope you have found these tips useful, if you would like any further advice or support on how to best engage with schools, please get in touch with the team at UniTasterDays.



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Editorial has been provided by over 35 colleagues at universities throughout the UK, on topics including building university links, the Gatsby benchmarks, degree apprenticeships, university CPD opportunities, the university events available for school groups and more.


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