Widening further education participation in the Clarence Valley

17 Aug 2023

The common adage is that it takes a village to raise a child, but at CUC Clarence Valley, we also believe it takes a Valley to educate a child. At your local CUC, newly appointed Widening Participation Officers will be at the forefront of working alongside schools to provide support and opportunities for students to not only design their future but help them achieve it. CUC Clarence Valley’s Widening Participation Unit is fundamental to CUC’s core values of   

increasing access by building highly connected learning communities to overcome the barriers to success.  

Through the creation and facilitation of partnerships between the community, schools, and further education providers, the Widening Participation Officers will help to increase the participation of the community in further education to create a more prosperous future for our learners and the wider community.  

 The latest census data indicates that the Clarence Valley is home to 4 259 adolescents aged 12 to 18. Without exposure to various pathways and connections made with further education providers, our adolescents can find the transition from school to post-school pathways difficult. Further to this, there is a greater trend for regional students to drop out of university with less than 20 per cent of students completing a university degree in the SA4 region of Coffs-Grafton in 2016 census data, resulting in growing concerns for our adolescents post-school. A study completed by Universities Australia in 2020 indicates that there has been an increase in regional students dropping out of university due to workload, lack of academic support and work life balance concerns. This can indicate a lack of support or preparedness for a university transition which can often be exacerbated by the geographical relocation of many regional students. This data presents many opportunities for CUC to provide support to learners within the Clarence Valley.  

Currently, CUC Clarence Valley provides support to 160 students with diverse patterns of study; HSC students, TAFE students, and University students. The role of the Widening Participation Officers will be to build upon this support and help adolescents build a sense of identity intertwined with lifelong learning. Through working with schools to implement and facilitate programs that encourage the exposure and exploration of a wide range of career pathways in early secondary and the connection with further education providers in upper secondary, it is hoped that adolescents feel comfortable and supported to pursue their goals while still maintaining their connections to home.   

Schools can often fall into a trap of measuring success or outcomes on university early entry or HSC results, but this can ultimately be a disservice to our adolescents. This is particularly the case if they have not had the opportunity to adequately prepare themselves for university life. CUC’s programs will look beyond the need to define student success as an entry into university and instead reshape success to look like students continuing to commit themselves to a life of learning; creating perpetual growth to achieve their pathways. Through the fostering of connections to university and further study during formative schooling years, students are able to think beyond university entry and towards the skills and support that they will need to complete their studies, which can all be provided in their local region. 


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