West Midland Safari Park

Safari Park Supports Students for First in Family Programme

Posted: 5th September, 2023

The Education Team at West Midland Safari Park has welcomed a group of students, as part of a programme to help them progress with university applications.

The three-day programme, named ‘Conservation Pioneers’, works with local colleges and sixth forms, to help students from across Worcestershire gain experience for university courses related to ecology, animal science and zoology.

The Park’s Education Team set up the project, following research from The Nuffield Foundation, (a charitable trust with funds research into education, justice and welfare), which suggests that students whose parents are not graduates, are less likely to go to university.

The aim of the project is to assist ‘first in family’ learners, by providing a concentrated three-day experience, where students could attain some memorable and relevant experiences, to put towards their UCAS application.

UCAS look at learners' grades and academic skills, but also asks them about their experiences outside of education, so ‘Conservation Pioneers’ was designed to help learners to demonstrate key skills and qualities that they could evidence to universities, such as communication, leadership and problem solving.

Chloe Walton-Stenson, Senior Education Officer, who helped set up the programme said, “This is the first time we have run this programme and it has been a great success. To set up the programme, we contacted a range of colleges and sixth forms across Worcestershire to ask them if they were interested and what activities students would find valuable for their applications. Participating colleges then coordinated contacting learners and put them in touch with us. Students were able to attend for free if they wrote a 300-word summary of why they wished to attend the course. The programme was open to any students who were ‘first in family’, based in Worcestershire and intend to apply to start university in September 2024, with most students attending being between their first and second year of college.

“We have been delighted with the feedback from the students who have attended this summer. Students reported back to us that they felt they had developed skills in at least one area, with some students reporting that they felt more confident in up to five out of the six areas we asked them about. They also commented that they felt staff were approachable, the activities were fun, and the time with us was useful in developing their personal statements.” 

Students took part in a range of activities, including husbandry experiences with small and large exotic species, conducting an ecology survey, running observations on animal behaviour and self-reflection sessions.

Throughout, the learners logged the skills they had developed, which can then be taken to college with them in September to help them start writing their university application.

The project is part of the Park's commitment to help the local community and provide opportunities for learners in Worcestershire and is part of the Education Team's aim to provide engaging learning experiences and to inspire lifelong interest for the natural world.

Careers and enrichment teams for Worcestershire colleges or sixth forms, interested in sending learners for the programme next year, can contact the Education Team via email: [email protected] for further information.

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