Head of local outreach programme wins national award

The head of Higher Horizons+, Ant Sutcliffe, has been named as Widening Access Practitioner of the Year at the 2020 NEON Awards, that celebrate the transformative power that higher education can have and recognises key achievements in the widening access sector.

Higher Horizons+, that Ant leads at Keele University, encourages young people from underrepresented groups across Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire to achieve their potential by entering higher education and enrolling on university courses. Much of the work is focused on young people who may be the first in their family to think about higher education, or who have low expectations of their routes through education.

Ant has worked in widening access for 15 years across a variety of roles, and has led Higher Horizons+ since 2015. 

Speaking about his award, Ant commented: “The award represents all the hard work of the Higher Horizons Team, not just me. I genuinely believe that we have the best outreach team in the country who, in turn, inspire the best young people in the country. I had the honour of growing up on Park Estate in Stoke on Trent, and I can vouch that the young people across our region are incredibly creative, talented and passionate. They deserve good quality support as they plan their futures, and I feel that we deliver that.”

Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, said: “I'm absolutely delighted for Ant that he has won the NEON Widening Access Practitioner of the Year award and been recognised in this way. It's richly deserved and is real testament to his huge commitment and unwavering efforts over many years to widening access to higher education and raising aspirations for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

The government-funded scheme that Ant leads has delivered over 2,500 activities across 129 schools and colleges in Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire in the past year alone. More than 32,000 young people aged 13-18 years-old have taken part in a programme of free, engaging activities that are aimed at raising aspirations and increasing progression to higher education.

New data has also found that the programme has increased the university progression rate of young people that engaged with Higher Horizons+ by almost three times compared to their peers.