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No creative journey is the same but we know that inspiring your students, whatever their ambition, is at the heart of what we do in creative education.

Learning to ‘Level-Up’? Supporting Working-Class Boys’ Progression to Higher Education

Hosted in partnership with University of Portsmouth and University of Winchester an exciting free conference for HE practitioners.

We explored how we can better support working-class boys’ educational attainment and progression to Higher Education.

Widening Participation Research and Practice Conference

Date: Thursday 8 September 2022

Time: 9.30 – 16.00

For the last decade, discourse on the rate of progression to Higher Education for working-class boys has been a persistent focus of politicians, educators, and those with an interest in equitable access to educational opportunity. However, despite focus on the issue in media and political conversation, gaps in GCSE attainment remain significant, and rates of progression to Higher Education remain low.

In 2019, a review by the Office for Students of Access and Participation Plans suggested that of the 838 targets set relating to university access, success and progression by providers, only 11 gave specific mention to working-class males.

As such, Arts University Bournemouth, the University of Portsmouth and the University of Winchester hosted a joint conference for Higher Education practitioners to explore what can be done and how to better support working-class boys’ educational attainment and progression to Higher Education.


Hosted at Arts University Bournemouth, this one-day conference brought together practitioners and researchers from 55 institutions and organisations conducting activity to support working class boys’ educational progression. It provided a space to disseminate research and learn from evidence-based practice.

We were thrilled to be joined by a selection of esteemed speakers throughout the day.

Director of Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University

Author of Working-class Boys and Educational Success: Teenage Identities, Masculinity and Urban Schooling, Nicola is professor of sociology of education with an interest in analysing social class based educational inequalities across the whole education sector, and their connection to labour market outcomes. Her research is politically motivated by a personal history of growing up on a council estate with multiple markers of deprivation in Belfast, and a conflictual experience of social mobility through education.

Ulster University

Building on the seminal ‘Taking Boys Seriously’ study by Ken Harland and Sam McCready (2012), Taking Boys Seriously 2 (TBS2) drives an innovative approach to closing the attainment gap with working-class boys in Northern Ireland. Their 10 principles of engagement situate young men as relational learners in a context where success comes down to ‘the tenacity of the relationship between the learner and the educator. Where the relationship is marked by trust, empathy and respect, any challenge or setback can be worked out’.

Future Men are a multi-award-winning specialist charity that supports boys and men along the path to becoming dynamic future men. Through practice-led services, Future Men encourage boys and men to explore, celebrate and build on the seven key characteristics which contribute to positive masculinity.

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We know that inspiring your students, whatever their ambition, is at the heart of what we do in creative education.
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