Primary students take their 'first step' into life at university

Dr Glenn Pearce

The University of Western Sydney recently had its first of many 'First Foot Forward for Primary' sessions at the Parramatta Campus on Thursday 3rd April 2014.

One hundred year five and six students from Granville East Public School participated in 'Dare to Dream', a full day event which includes science-based 'Fizzics Education', and 'Dream Big' workshops. The students had the opportunity to explore the campus, become more familiar with a university environment and meet with current UWS students.

The day commenced with Dr Glenn Pearce, a Senior Lecturer from the UWS School of Business, who conducted a ventriloquism show – with special guest star, Troy the Skater Boy. The show provided the students with a fun and interactive introduction to the day.

"It is a pleasure to be involved with a wonderful initiative such as the First Foot Forward Program. Through conveying the information in an informal, fun approach, the students will relate more easily with the day's events and messages," says Dr Pearce.

Dr Pearce, aka 'Dr Dude', uses his routine to guide the students through the anxieties and complexities that young students face when considering university as a viable option. He explains how the students can aspire to attend university and how the day is about taking that all important 'first-step' into exploring university.

First Foot Forward, established by UWS in the Office of Widening Participation, works with students in primary school and continues to support them as they transition into the middle and later years of schooling through the UWS Fast Forward Program for high school students. Research has indicated that a child's attitude towards education, school participation, attainment and thinking around post secondary study as significant and real options, forms during the early years of their development.

Bronwyn Williams, Senior Project Officer, First Foot Forward Program, says the community need for the First Foot Forward Program is clear, particularly considering the current imbalances in post school education for students, from areas that have not traditionally accessed higher education in great numbers.

"We aim to introduce the students to the concept of university and demystify some of those misconceptions they may have about university study," says Ms Williams.

UWS is supporting schools and parents of primary aged students to set goals and participate in higher education. The First Foot Forward Program promotes the benefits of higher education to participants by raising awareness and understanding towards the different opportunities offered at university and provide access to activities aimed at increasing self-esteem, aspirations and motivation.

Over the course of the year primary students will be involved in:

* An on-campus UWS visit, designed to increase their level of awareness about higher education and the options available to them.

* Two in-school workshops, delivered by UWS staff, with topics such as leadership, goal setting and independent learning, discussed with the students.

* Family Information Night, where students and their families can learn more about how to support their children's tertiary aspirations.

The University's key objectives for the First Foot Forward Program are:

* Raise awareness of Higher Education and aspirations to participate.

* Increase the opportunities for students to discover options and pathways to Higher Education.

* Build capacity for students to achieve their full potential.

* Provide information to support parents and caregivers to assist their children to successfully navigate their futures.

First Foot Forward has been established by the University of Western Sydney. This program is funded by the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), as part of the Bridges to Higher Education initiative.

Bridges to Higher Education is a partnership of five universities (University of Technology, Sydney; Macquarie University; University of Western Sydney; University of Sydney; and the Australian Catholic University) and fifteen other partners. Bridges to Higher Education is a $21.2 million initiative, which aims to boost the participation of under-represented communities in higher education. 

4 April 2014
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