I, like many of the people who lived with friends whilst at university, spent a lot of time arguing over the correct way to say “grass” “bath” and “castle”. The ‘right’ name for a bread roll (a cob? a balm? a bap? a teacake?) was an ongoing debate and everyone spent the first week of freshers trying to mimic each other’s regional twangs.
What I did not realise was that accents, the words you use and the colloquialisms you adopt can go a long way in creating a “class ceiling”; with the most elite companies favouring people without regional accents and dialects. In fact, a 2015 study found that people who stayed completely silent were viewed as more intelligent than those with a Birmingham accent. Another study even linked a person’s accent to their likelihood of committing crime.
But it is not just about the accent you use to make your point, it is the way in which you do that.
Sociologist and linguist Basil Bernstein wrote extensively about the difference between the ways that working class and middle class students use language. He called these “Elaborate (middle-class) and Restricted (working-class) Code”. In short, elaborate code pulls from an extensive repertoire of vocabulary and is able to adapt to a variety of social situations allowing the user to manipulate their linguistic resources to make their point. Restricted code uses a much less formal sentence structure and an often narrower vocabulary (especially synonyms).
So, why does this matter?
School is taught in elaborate code. Exam mark schemes require certain words and sentence structures. Whether or not your writing adheres to the ‘academic’ style at university (and even pre-uni with personal statements/applications) is dependent almost entirely on your ability to manipulate vocabulary and syntax. To receive qualifications, score highly in speaking exams and become more ‘academic’, you need to be able to master elaborate code, which for some seems unnatural and antagonistic to their communication styles at home.
Now, I pose this question: does it really matter how someone explains photosynthesis as long as they have a solid understanding? Does the way you speak about a subject denote that you know more or less about it? Is an essay written in perfect academic form more of a worthwhile read than one that is not? If I use colloquialisms, am I worse at my job?
Radical change would see schools and universities recognise the merits of all forms and expressions of knowledge. Maybe a conversation about Macbeth is just as valid as an essay?
In any case, as potential future employers and interviewees alike, what we can do for now is our best to recognise privileges and mitigate bias.
And if you cannot? well, yu’m thick ay ya.
Blog Post by Jennifer Love, Midlands Programme Officer
The United Kingdom and the United States, two of the most powerful socio-political countries in the world, have been fighting for the bottom spot among 1st world social mobility statistics for decades[i]. At CoachBright, our mission is to draw attention to and eventually eliminate this disparity. At times, it may seem like a never-ending battle, but I thought that sharing my story would allow for a more hopeful view of what we try to do for disadvantaged pupils in the UK.
I was born and raised in the United States (Ohio by way of Colorado by way of California, etc.) in a lower middle-class family. My mother was a single parent of four children by the time I was thirteen; and due to her two jobs, I was an unpaid babysitter, tutor and maid until I left home. However, I was always completely sure of my goal to get a degree and become an academic, but this was a goal I did not realise until fifteen years later in the United Kingdom.
America is founded on an ethos of Manifest Destiny, can-do attitude and meritocracy. I (like most Americans) grew up hearing that working hard was how you achieved your dreams. This is reinforced even today with feel good articles commonly found on Facebook[ii]: articles and stories that reinforce the idea that even in the worst circumstances, you can achieve your dreams as long as you work hard. Unfortunately, children are actually less likely to go into further education or make more money than their parents[iii].
This is what happened to me. I worked hard, got the grades, got a few scholarships, got a lot of loans (at 9.6% interest) and worked nights my first semester at OSU to cover the rest of my tuition fees. By the following year I had taken a sabbatical because I could not afford it. A few year later, I moved to the UK with my husband, waited patiently for three years to become a permanent resident, did an Access course, and ten years after I left high school I got my BA from The University of Exeter with only a measly £25k debt to the government (a year's tuition back home).
The point of my story is in no way to say that the UK is the land of dreams where “if you work hard you can achieve it”. They are mired by the same issues as the US; however, when it comes to higher education, there are many more opportunities for those people to work hard and achieve, and CoachBright exists to allow access to those opportunities.
We are showing children that, yes, things are going to be quite challenging and you are fighting against the national averages but we are going to try to give you ever tool, tip and trick we know to help you achieve your goals despite all of that. We hope that this is the first step in affecting change at a systemic level, a way for all children to have the same chances.
Blog Post by Arielle Woods, Programme Officer in the South West
As an award-winning, fast-growing social enterprise focussed on social mobility our mission is to support young people from disadvantaged communities to identify and fulfil their potential.
Working in partnership with schools, we deliver academic coaching programmes that improve a pupil’s grades, confidence and independence so they can win places at top universities and high level apprenticeships.
Having turned five years old in February 2019, we are at an exciting stage of growth and have ambitious plans to scale our impact and reach. Currently working across London, West Midlands, South West and recently the Isle of Wight, for the first time, we are looking to thoughtfully scale our academic programmes into hard to reach deprivation areas. Over the next 3 years, we are aiming to support over 10,000 young people.
Head of London Role
We need an outgoing self-starter to drive our work in London forward, making it a commercially sustainable hub that delivers real social impact.
As the public face of the organisation, you will be responsible for partnership development, profile raising and managing our programmes from volunteer recruitment all the way through to evaluation, alongside working day to day with our London Programme Officer.
This is an in at the deep end role and s/he will flourish in a small dynamic team with real influence in decision making.
For the full job description and how to apply please click here.
Any questions or if you would like a confidential phone call to discuss the role, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coaching with CoachBright supports students’ work ethic, improves their attitude towards their studies, and boosts their confidence in their learning. The students are able to nurture their academic abilities and receive a helping hand to reach those higher grades.
However, being a coach goes beyond school. It involves being a role model to a younger student to enable them to see that they can become reflective, independent and strong spirited learners and pave their own path for the lives they want to steer.
Consequently, being a role model for the younger generation is an extremely important role to play in our society. This is even more significant for students from disadvantaged backgrounds such as low-income families and young people who are on free school meals . The attainment gap in education identifies the concern that in secondary education young people from low-income backgrounds do not perform as well as students from other backgrounds in the UK , thus reflecting the social mobility issue. Therefore, it is vital for these young people to have a role model who is able to guide them and boost their results and self-belief. This kind of support provides them with new opportunities to take a further step towards closing the attainment gap.
The qualities of being a role model as well as a coach are inherently intermingled in the very nature of the programme. One-to-one coaching allows university students to share their personal experiences, revision techniques and advice from when they were in school. This motivates their coachees and helps them realise that hard work really does pay off. Such guidance is tailored for the student as the relationship blossoms throughout the seven weeks of the programme. With 89% of CoachBright pupils going on to study at university in 2018 and progressing by more than four times compared to their non-coached peers , it is clear that CoachBright has been life-changing for young people.
Coaching is therefore about merging the direct academic support of a tutor with the life skills and encouragement of a role model. These life skills cannot be taught in the classroom. They can only be learnt through experience, with CoachBright’s programmes generating a platform for these opportunities to grow.
I have been an academic coach at West Walsall E-ACT Academy working with GCSE students between October and December, and more recently year 13 students between February and March. I hope to commence my training to be a geography teacher in the coming September, and as part of the application process I have been asked to give a presentation on why the following statement holds true in 21st century Britain:
At the end of Primary school, pupils for disadvantaged backgrounds are 9.5 months behind their non-disadvantaged peers. By the end of secondary school, the gap in attainment more than doubles to a gap of 19.2 months .
Currently government policies and the media increasingly target the quality of schools for the attainment gap in students, often focusing on the achievement of those at GCSE and A-level age. However, these reports often fail to acknowledge that only 14% of variability in attainment is directly due to the quality of a child’s education with the vast majority resulting from social disadvantage .
Like most contemporary reports, this post defines a disadvantaged child as one who is known to have been able to access free school meals within the last 6 years . The financial situation of students often propagates into further difficulties within a child’s life including; engagement in school, confidence and access to opportunities which their advantaged peers may receive.
Although the ratio of advantaged to disadvantaged children in the British education system is relatively small, it is imperative for the reasons behind the attainment gap to be understood so that future policies can be influenced by these. Currently only ¼ of disadvantaged adolescents receive 5 good GCSEs at the end of year 11 . Along with this, paid jobs often require a higher level of education (for example a degree), and so many of these students will follow their parents’ footsteps in minimum wage employment or receiving benefits. This extrapolates the percentage of the population who are disadvantaged.
Over the past 6 months, I have an academic coach at the social mobility enterprise CoachBright, an organisation which works with disadvantaged 10-30-year olds in Birmingham, London, Wiltshire and Exeter. I have personally observed an increase in attainment with the students that I have worked with, with the programme seeing an improvement 4.4 times larger than their peers who did not participate, likely as a result of 82.2% of students implementing a higher standard to their school work . It is fundamental that young people are given the space and support to grow through programmes like CoachBright, as children thrive in conditions where the sole focus is on their development.
It has been shown that behavioural and emotional problems experienced in children between 6 and 8 significantly diminishes the probability of a child achieving high grades in school and enrolling at university . Whilst it is in early childhood where interventions (similar to that of CoachBright’s primary school programme) to mitigate disadvantages are most successful , I believe that no child should be denied the opportunity to experience activities which appear to be standard for their advantaged peers.
Outside of school activities can help to improve self-belief , therefore I believe that all children should be able to access free sports groups through school, and perhaps more importantly, participate in charity work. This enables students of all backgrounds to gain an appreciation for their wider community and develop confidence within a group using creative outlets, which can be applied to their academic career. This is fundamental in improving self-confidence, as often students have a poor attitude towards learning not because they see education as pointless but because they are not nurtured in the classroom.
Furthermore, Kiernan and Mensah (2011) have shown that disadvantaged families who experience positive parenting were more likely to be successful in school . In order to extend this into the child’s school experience, it is important for teachers to discuss with a student who was misbehaving why their behaviour was inappropriate rather than just disciplining them through the school’s protocol. This is because studies have shown that those who feel that they have been let down by authority figures need to have these feelings addressed before they are able to re-engage with the curriculum . Not only this but education should be a shared enterprise between, parents, students and their teachers. As many parents in poverty are unable to provide the resources to help their child’s education , it is important for a conversation to be opened between schools and parents to allow for the provision of revision materials of pens, pencils and other necessary revision materials to be worked towards.
In conclusion, if all teachers were to take on the belief that no child should be disregarded, the gap in attainment between disadvantaged children and their advantaged peers would be significantly reduced.
We come in the world as a “Tabula Rasa”. John Locke described it as our mind being a “blank slate” without rules for processing data when we are born, and all these are formed solely by one’s sensory experiences.
Everything we do has been influenced by an occurrence at one point in life. We all live in a social world, a world shaped by different ideas which society has been built on. These ideas make up our culture. We tend to focus on specific areas that have more meaning and relevance to us based on our individual experiences. However, the ideas that our social groups are built on also form cultural differences. When talking about intrinsic motivation, cross cultural research suggests that Americans tend to perform better if they have had some form of previous success which motivates them to progress and keep going. Meanwhile, the Japanese are more likely to do better if they are faced with failure, as that will motivate them to work harder in the future. The cultural space we live in shapes the ways we perceive various tasks. Excellence and success are the desired outcomes, but the approach to these can be different.
I studied in Romania and now I live in the UK. I have observed many differences in the way teachers deliver information, the support provided to learners and the learner-teacher relationship. In my homeland, elder teachers raised in a communist world are less likely to promote the children’s creativity and critical thinking, and rather drag them down for what they do not know. Younger teachers attempt to change this by promoting uniqueness and implementing better methods; however, the education system seems to be “on pause” rather than forward thinking and adapting to the world’s current needs.
Wherever I go, I keep asking myself “So why is this relevant to me?”. Individuals fail to see the importance of information that lies as a foundation to our world. I believe this happens often due to lack of real life examples in correlation to our current times. Learners do not see the essential applicability, especially now as technology is rapidly developing and everyone seems to be living a faster life.
By being part of CoachBright, I have discovered that by supporting our younger peers, we help them to find meaning in their learning, find their own answers, reach their potential, and approach the path they choose to follow.
The culture and ways of thinking that our children are exposed to will determine how they will grow and the mindset they will have as adults.
Blog Post by: Carla Bodea, Coach on our Erdington Academy Programme in Birmingham
I was an Academic Coach on the GCSE Bristnall Hall Programme in Birmingham last term and have progressed to be Head Coach on the Year 13 West Walsall programme this term, whilst also coaching in A level biology.
CoachBright has been an extremely valuable experience for my professional development as an aspiring teacher by giving me the opportunity to work with students of different age groups in two different schools. This has developed my critical skills in a teaching context, such as how to motivate students and help facilitate their learning and progression.
CoachBright has opened the doors to this personal development by providing excellent training sessions, and the programmes involved me delivering 1:1 coaching sessions with another pupil for a total of 7 weeks, allowing me to witness how students develop their skills and knowledge to achieve their end goal.
The Head Coach role has improved my leadership skills by allowing me to lead and motivate a successful team of 14 coaches on my programme, partly achieved through organised socials. The task of monitoring 14 coaching pairs has really widened my perspective when it comes to finding successful teaching techniques and provided me with a lot of experience in organisation management and problem solving.
I also feel extremely passionate about tackling social mobility issues through working with students from ‘underprivileged backgrounds’ like myself and helping students aspire to achieve their long-term goals such as university degrees and beyond, irrespective of any social mobility barriers. I strongly believe social mobility should not be a factor preventing an individual to succeed to their strongest potential. It was only because of the excellent outreach support I received as a school student myself, from University of Birmingham students with UCAS applications and my studies that I felt confident in my personal and academic abilities to achieve my future goals.
CoachBright has been my first major opportunity to reciprocate this support to people who are in the same position I was in over 2 years ago. This personal connection is what has driven my passion to be a part of CoachBright and has made the experience ever so rewarding. I have really enjoyed working with Coachbright so far and I look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.
Blog Post by: Mark Perry, Head Coach on the Birmingham West Walsall Programme
When I was at school, university was an expectation rather than a possibility. I was surrounded by students who all had the same anticipated future ahead of them. For a long time, I thought this was just the reality for people my age. However, the older I’ve grown, the more I realised that the rhetoric surrounding university and the opportunities I was given were a privilege. Britain’s Social Mobility Index proves how slow the country is with regards to offering equal opportunities to children. This generates a new question: ‘had I grown up in a different area, would I have had the same opportunities I’ve been given?’ The answer is probably not.
The UK is one of the least socially mobile countries in the world which would explain why private school pupils comprise up to 40% of the intake of top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, despite the fact that only 7% of the UK’s children attend private education. Programmes such as CoachBright are essential for not only providing younger students with insight into the possibility of university, but also for reminding those studying in higher education of the impact their geographic location may have had on their current prospects. CoachBright is a vital social programme that paves the way for other initiatives to ensure that we, as a country, acknowledge that there is a social mobility crisis and that changes need to be made in order to make a very uneven playing field more equal.
I am one of 13.8 million people in the UK who are called millennials and make up 35% of the workforce.
The term “millennials” broadly describes those born between 1980-1995. Generation Y is another term for this group, and the internet was born when we were children so we are history’s first ‘Digital Natives’.
Employers often see us as “ego-massaging” graduates who are not ready for the “real world of work”. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) states that a third of companies are unsatisfied with our work because we do not show resilience, self-management and social skills. This phenomenon has been labelled by author Simon Sinek as “the millennial problem”, characterised by our need for constant praise and organisations often losing people they want to keep. In fact, around 43% of millennials plan to leave their jobs within the next two years.
However, organisations can take various opportunities to inspire the next generation of leaders to achieve their true best in the world of work. We are more purpose-driven, collaborative and creative than any other generation.
Firstly, consider purpose: 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a company with more social responsibility compared to 55% of people from previous generations. Having lived through the financial crisis of 2007-08 and starting our careers in debt through student finance, we require more from businesses than just profit making. We want to work in environments that prioritise society and individual wellbeing. For example, by ensuring that CSR departments are no longer bolt-ons, but are rather well integrated within the culture of an organisation. Workplaces need to embrace the mindset of a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit, where economic success is only a third of a company’s aims with the other two thirds being the wellbeing of its stakeholders and the impact on society as a whole.
Secondly, consider collaboration and creativity. Young professionals often prefer to work in smaller, more flexible teams with shared goals and ambitions instead of competing against their peers. This is seen in part through the rise of co-working spaces in London, starting in 2012. Mainly aimed at micro-businesses and freelancers, this new trend has spread across larger organisations as well, from Innocent Drinks to Camden Council, where people no longer use fixed seating arrangements, but rather decide where to sit every day. Neil Usher, workplace director at Sky states that co-working spaces “excel in collaboration with a warm, residential and engaging aesthetic.”
Additionally, growing up in an age of constant connectivity through Facebook messaging and Whatsapp groups, millennials are natural collaborators, used to instantaneous feedback loops. New productivity tools such as Slack or Google Docs were created to stimulate quicker response times within teams. Have you noticed how younger team members embrace new technologies quicker to get the job done faster and better? For employers, this collaborative, energetic and solution-focused attitude provides great advantages.
The building blocks are there.
Then, one might ask, how come I still struggle with my young team?
At CoachBright, we believe that organisations often misunderstand the needs of their young workforce. A common feature among graduate programmes seems to be a relentless focus on learning the processes of the organisation and the knowledge required to thrive in that industry (e.g. tax exams, commercial law or information softwares). There seems to be less training in influencing others and being and behaving in a team. At CoachBright, we know you can only bring your best self to work if you understand yourself. Only through self reflection and feedback can you truly see what your strengths and areas for development are. Gaining this awareness can be just as tricky. It requires patience, training and a framework. We believe that coaching, an approach that helps learners explore and come up with the answers by themselves through exploration and challenge, is key.
That is why we have partnered with the Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC) to launch the first of its kind Young Professionals Coaching Skills Certificate. It is aimed at people aged between 18-30 and is delivered by faculty who are themselves millennials. The course focuses on training young professionals in the coaching skills of listening, reflecting and questioning, so that they can better understand themselves in the world of work and take major steps to become their best selves in their profession.
In conclusion, we know that there is an ambitious group of future leaders out there who want to become the best they can be in their professional and personal lives. With their driven, collaborative and creative personalities, all they need is a spark from us to help them take off.
Article by Robin Chu, CEO of CoachBright, AoEC partner.
AoEC offers coaching, triple-accredited coach training, and consulting to individuals and organisations worldwide looking to embrace positive change through empowering people. For more information please visit the Young Professionals Coaching Skills Certificate webpage.
Coaching can be a transformational experience to help individuals become more aware of who they are, where they want to go, and how to get there. However, it has traditionally been a gift shared only with senior executives in the latter part of their career.
Fortunately, organisations who understand the benefits of coaching are beginning to offer junior members of staff this opportunity as well, and it’s promising to see coaching cultures emerge in an increasing number of workplaces. As well as helping young professionals feel more fulfilled at work, coaching contributes towards the overall success of a business, as these individuals can play a bigger part in their team and not be held back by all too common self-limiting beliefs.
For an individual to be effective in a team they must be self-aware. Understanding and owning up to your strengths, being aware of your weaknesses and having a sense of your values help when it comes to bringing your best self to a team. Self-awareness is increasingly seen as critical for ‘Millennials’ success. Consistent, honest feedback at work is one way of achieving this. Another one is coaching, which gives clients the opportunity to reflect in a safe space and gain insights into their behaviour and what drives them forward. John Whitmore notes that “the first key element of coaching is awareness, which is the product of focused attention, concentration, and clarity”.
An understanding of personal values is one element of self-awareness gained in coaching. Once someone is aware of what is fundamentally important to them in life, their decisions will be guided by this and they will make choices early on in their career that make sense for them. It is also useful for a young professional to see whether their values are aligned with those of the organisation that they are part of. Being able to select roles in companies with shared values means that an individual is more likely to find themselves in an environment where they are a ‘good fit’. In fact, personal-organisational value conflict has been found to be linked to lower job satisfaction, so the sooner an individual knows what their values are, the less time they will spend in an unsatisfying job within a company that is not right for them.
Another outcome for those fortunate enough to experience coaching early on in their career, is a significant increase in confidence. Being able to make sense of current situations in a safe, non-judgemental space, and having the time to work through possible solutions to problems can be empowering for the young professional and result in increased confidence when they re-enter the workplace. A coach can also challenge their self-limiting beliefs, such as the perception that their manager does not trust them, or that colleagues think they are too inexperienced, for example.
Being more self-confident and feeling like they work in an organisation whose values align with their own contributes towards a higher motivation at work, but the coaching process can also significantly increase their day to day personal motivation. Setting short-term goals with their coach specifically related to their jobs, employees would focus on solutions to challenges and try out these solutions to make small steps towards the goal between coaching sessions. This process empowers the individual and makes them feel more motivated, leaving them with a ‘can do’ attitude in the workplace.
Article by Mary McPherson, Head of Programmes at CoachBright, AoEC partner.
AoEC offers coaching, triple-accredited coach training, and consulting to individuals and organisations worldwide looking to embrace positive change through empowering people. For more information please visit the Young Professionals Coaching Skills Certificate webpage.