Hopwood Hall College & University Centre 

Widening participation of 16-18 year olds in education

A trauma-informed approach to learning, designed to support marginalised and disengaged young people aged 16-18, by responding to a range of social and mental health issues affecting life chances in one of the most deprived areas nationally. 

Hopwood Hall College and University Centre is a Further Education college with campuses in Rochdale and Middleton, Greater Manchester. It serves a community that has historically had barriers to entering, staying in and succeeding in education – with 69% of students being from an economically disadvantaged postcode. In response to the complex issues arising from the local demographics, the college introduced a pioneering trauma-informed approach in order to widen participation of 16-18 year olds from marginalised communities in education.

This strengths-based framework is grounded in a greater understanding of the impact of trauma through Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), with an emphasis on physical, psychological and emotional safety for young people. It includes projects targeted at groups such as the Care Experienced, SEND, LGBTQ+, ethnically diverse learners, those at risk of forced marriage, those in alternative provision, school refusers and young people with mental health issues such as anxiety. One example of this is the college’s innovative annual transition projects, which have had resounding impact, enabling even the most anxious students to succeed. This strategy encompassed whole staff training in trauma and attachment. In addition, new roles were introduced such as Mental Health First Aiders, an Achievement Improvement Officer for Looked After Children, Behaviour Support Officers and Health & Wellbeing Champions. Hopwood also became the first college to have a full-time social prescribing link worker.

This trauma-informed approach has had an extremely positive impact, particularly with marginalised young people. This is evident in destination figures, which show 57.2% of young people in the borough now going to a Further Education College in 2022, up from 47.9% in 2020. In addition, Looked After Children – a group that traditionally underperforms in education – achieved 2% above the general college cohort in 2021/22.