Meeting the challenge together: boys’ attainment in Portsmouth

Student in a classroom

Let's meet one of Portsmouth's most pressing educational challenges, and make a real difference to the future opportunities of our young people

  • 22 March 2021
  • 4 min read

As a staff member at the University, one of the things that I’m proudest of, is our institution being a university for Portsmouth.

Not just as a city, but as a community – a place with a rich history, strong identity and vibrant personality. In 2019, we were one of the first Higher Education Providers in the country to sign a Civic University Pledge. This pledge made a formal commitment to meet the social and economic challenges facing our community.

When reflecting on my role as a researcher and practitioner working in widening access to Higher Education, I often think about how this commitment plays out within the work we do. Having such a strong strategic commitment to the betterment of Portsmouth as a community is fantastic, but how do we mobilise it within our work?
 
Well as a city, one of the key challenges facing us at the moment is the educational success of our young people.

The challenge

Data from the Portsmouth Local Authority shows that in 2019 the percentage of pupils achieving a 9-4 pass in English and Maths at GCSE was 56%, 11.5% below the average for the South East region. By the time students reached the age of 19, almost a quarter of the young people in Portsmouth didn’t achieve a GCSE or equivalent qualification.

Students in a classroom

It’s a challenge faced by universities in cities and towns like Portsmouth too. Admissions data on a national level suggests that males from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds are much less likely to take part in Higher Education than almost any other group. Although there’s evidence to suggest that more students are going to university, the gap between those from most and least advantaged groups attending are as wide as ever, especially with boys.

As an outreach team, these figures present a stark reminder of the consequences of socio-economic inequality for our young people. However, they also present an opportunity for us to do something about it. Not just us as a University, but us as an educational community that’s deeply invested in providing equity of educational opportunity for all students, no matter their background, or the significant challenges that they face.

Working together to make a difference

It’s for this reason that on April 29 2021, the outreach team at the University of Portsmouth will be running its first CPD event in partnership with Beyond Equality, focused specifically on boys’ attainment in the city. We’ll be working with the Local Authority, schools, community groups and third sector organisations to share expertise, applying it to the specific challenges our students face.

We hope to build on this in the new academic year and explore many more of the issues which impact on the educational success of young men in Portsmouth:

  • Inequality
  • Peer pressure and mental health
  • Teacher expectations
  • Laddishness and self-protection strategies
  • Sex, sexism and relationships

A shared ambition

Portsmouth is a City with a tremendous amount of talent, experience and expertise within its schools, colleges, community and third sector organisations. Let’s draw on this expertise and provide it with a laser sharp focus. In doing so we can meet one of our City’s most pressing educational challenges, and make a real difference to the future opportunities of our young people.

Get involved

Most importantly, we’d love for you to join us. For more information on our work to support boys’ attainment, register your interest here.


This blog was written by Dr Alex Blower, member of the outreach team at the University of Portsmouth.

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