Helping hand

Teacher awarded for encouraging pupil

Kyle with Jess in Cambridge

Kyle Hutchinson, like many teachers, sees their job as a way of making a difference to a young person’s life. That’s why they’ve been recognised in the University of Cambridge’s Educator of the Year Awards. 

Since 2022 Kyle has worked as a pastoral tutor at Nottingham College. The College serves a diverse community, with many of its young students coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. While around 70% apply to University, not many apply to Cambridge or Oxford.

But that doesn’t hold the College back from encouraging them to aim for the top. As it says in its Promise to the local community, it believes in “changing lives through excellence in education and employment.”

Jess Burton is one of those who’ve benefitted from this emotional investment. She struggled with her GCSEs but went on to study 3 A-levels at the College’s High Pavement Sixth Form division. Simultaneously she undertook an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) writing on art and vampires. The project earned her recognition in the Association of Colleges Student of the Year Awards. Jess is now studying in Cambridge having secured a place on the University of Cambridge’s Foundation Year.

“I come from a Sixth Form College where people don’t do what I intended to do. It wasn’t much heard of to attend Oxbridge universities without additional tutoring or a private school education under your belt. The College has limited resources in supporting applications, especially from a neuro-divergent person like myself.”

That’s where Kyle stepped in. They put aside some food each day when Jess had to skip lunch breaks because she was travelling between campuses. When Jess was unable to access Wi-Fi at home Kyle found a classroom for her and stayed after hours, unpaid, to ensure she had the technological support she needed. And they gave her valuable support with her application to the Foundation Year.

“At the time I didn’t know Cambridge had a Foundation Year” Kyle says. “I knew Jess had the talent to succeed. But because of her ADHD doubts kept creeping in. All I did was help her on her way by looking over her application form. As a pastoral tutor I want to be there for all students, but particularly those who have challenges or struggles in life. You have to be accessible so the students know they can approach you.”

"I want to be there for all students"

"I want to be there for all students"

The Foundation Year programme at Cambridge is a fully funded pre-degree scheme in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences which offers a stepping stone to those who may have experienced disruption or other challenges in their education. The students who get on the programme may have experience of the care system, come from households with low incomes or from schools with little or no record of sending students to highly selective universities. Jess is hoping to stay on to a degree in linguistics when she completes the year. Staff gave her a round of applause when she came into College to inform everyone she’d won a place on the Foundation Year. She’s in no doubt about the impact Kyle’s positive attitude had on her:

“I genuinely cannot thank Kyle enough for all that they did during my time at High Pavement. If it hadn’t been for Kyle, I’d probably be working in a menial job and spending every spare minute of the day knee-deep in queer vampire literature instead of pushing my limits. And look where I am now…in Cambridge, surrounded by academic talent and facing new challenges every day. I’m still into queer vampire literature, but you can’t win every battle!”

And Kyle is in no doubt how her success will inspire other students:

“Her story serves to show what you can get back from putting the effort in. Jess’ example will be used in our new Strive programme (which supports students in their applications to top universities) and will really help encourage other students aim for the top.”

Click here for more information about the Foundation Year.

Published 14th May 2024

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