A regional outreach scheme to increase the number of teenagers from South Yorkshire going on to higher education has helped more than 15,000 so far.

The Higher Education Progression Partnership South Yorkshire (HeppSY) aims to support young people most at risk of missing out on higher education.

It is part of the newly launched Uni Connect programme funded by the Office for Students (OfS). As part of Uni Connect, it has now launched a regional hub to reach even more young people considering their options.

Mike Garnock-Jones, Director, Higher Education Progression Partnership, said:

“It’s great to have reached this major milestone to transform the career and life prospects of thousands of young people in our region who might not have otherwise gone on to consider studying a degree at college, university or as part of an apprenticeship.”

He added: “We are delighted to see the HeppHub provide impartial information, advice, and guidance on all higher education opportunities to help more young people make the best choices for them individually.”

The HeppHub builds on the successful partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield, which already provides impartial advice, support and online resources.

One student who has benefited from the programme is Lewis Rookes, aged 17, who is studying A Levels at Thomas Rotherham College.

Lewis said: “I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get into higher education and that I could never achieve the grades I needed. I still worry about it a bit but I know that I’m able and have the ability to get into university.

He explained: “Most of my family hasn’t been to university so I thought that might lock me out, but I’ve realised university is open to anyone and you don’t have to have all As, A*s.  I’ve applied to a mix of universities.”

Lewis continued: “Without HeppSY, and the college’s support, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to apply to universities away from home. Before HeppSY, I believed what I saw on TV shows. I thought only smart people could go to university and you’d be studying day and night with set teachers and set hours.”

He added: “But actually if you apply to the right place there’s something to suit everyone and a variety of courses out there. It was the same with student finance. I was worried that I’d be in debt for the rest of my life and everyone had said that to me, but in actuality it’s only a student loan and you pay it off depending on circumstances.”

HeppSY works with young people from Year 9 who live in 45 target wards in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, and parts of North East Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire and has worked with 15,600 so far at 46 schools and colleges.

The evidence shows that higher education participation of young people in these areas is both low and much lower than expected based on GCSE-level attainment. The definition of higher education includes degree level courses at further education colleges and universities in addition to higher and degree level apprenticeships.

For more information,visit our new Outreach Hub (HeppHub) at www.hepp.ac.uk. Follow @HeppSYplus.