When we launched our five-year strategy for 2021-26, Join the Club, we committed to a midpoint review. We had ambitious plans but were acutely aware that we were setting them in changeable times – the full impact of the pandemic was yet to be fully clear. We knew that factoring in a review phase would allow us to take stock, assess progress against ambition and calibrate the strategy yet further.
The midpoint review has been carried out over the last six months, with support from consultants at Bain & Company, and we are delighted to share a revised edition of Join the Club. The need for the charity’s work is still stark: today, students from the least advantaged backgrounds have a 2 in 100 chance of going to the most competitive universities, compared with 28 in 100 for the most advantaged. Disadvantaged students are 20% more likely to miss out on a 1st or 2:1 grade at university.
Since the first iteration of our strategy, the gap between the students eligible for free school meals entering ‘high-tariff’ universities and their more advantaged peers has widened by 1.4 percentage points. One of the biggest drivers of university access is attainment, and the gap here is widening too: The Education Policy Institute estimates that by the time they sit their GCSEs, FSM-eligible students have fallen 18.4 months behind their peers.
Our biggest strategic goals still fall into two categories: access and success. We are well on our way to working with 100,000 students through our access programmes, including our flagship Scholars Programme and the newly launched Make your Mark. To support successful transitions into higher education, we will work with 10,000 undergraduates with our success programmes. When we first launched Join the Club, Join the Dots was as yet unnamed. Today, we are about to begin sign-up for year three of our success programme, and we have positive impact data from its first year.
The revised edition of Join the Club also includes more detail on our digital transformation plans, the quality assurance of our programmes, and on our communities work, in particular on Parent Power. Since 2021, Parent Power chapters have been established in Cardiff, East London, East Oxford, Fenland, Knowsley, Mansfield, Oldham and Peterborough with more in the pipeline. By 2026, Parent Power will have engaged with 1,000 parents and carers.
If you would like to discuss how you can support us to achieve our strategic goals, please do get in touch – our strategy is an invitation to Join the Club.