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Our Approach

#289 Parent and Carer Ambassadors – neaco/ UEA outreach

Melanie Kidd

What did we do?

The Parent and Carer Ambassador project in Norfolk aims to increase impartial support for parents and carers through sharing a parent perspective on Higher Education and offering relevant support and information. The aim of the project is to increase parental engagement, equip parents and carers with knowledge of Higher Education and enable them to help their young people make informed decisions about the future.

I have recruited and trained a team of Parent and Carer Ambassadors, embedding them into our outreach planning and adding value and lived experience to our parent-focused activity. With experience of supporting their young people into and through Higher Education, the ambassador team support virtual and in-person events and activities, present to parent audiences, feature as part of Q&A panels, and help shape content for parent-focused resources.

‘I think that the biggest thing is helping to demystify the whole process. Hopefully we are able to allow parents and carers who may be put off by all the official paperwork to get through it and ease the stress that naturally occurs when you may not be comfortable trying to “work things out”.’

Kevin, neaco Parent and Carer Ambassador

Every event is different, so it helps that we have varied backgrounds and experience. For me, I put so much time, effort, and emotional energy into researching options with my young people that I hope by sharing some of our stories it can provide insights, ideas, direction, save time and spark discussion for other families. We can help others to navigate the options and raise aspirations for the families and young people we have the privilege to talk to.’

Sharn, neaco Parent and Carer Ambassador

Summary of impact

Working closely with neaco partnership members in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, and sharing Parent and Carer Ambassadors, we we’re able to transform our parent-focused events into digital formats without losing impact. Between April – December 2021 our online events engaged around 130 parents and carers across the three counties. We received very positive feedback, including that the opportunity to have questions answered by parents, as well as Higher Education professionals, was very helpful and informative.

Internally, Parent and Carer Ambassadors offer vital feedback and support for the development of neaco and UEA Outreach parental engagement. Creating opportunities for conversations between the team and the ambassadors has helped inform and shape the development of parent-focused activity, exploring new ideas and formats, and developing key messages.

The Parent and Carer Ambassadors have been vital in increasing parent voice across our parent and carer activity. In 2022 they have written articles, been the face of social media campaigns such as National Apprenticeship Week 2022 and recorded video and audio for online school events. We are now able to offer real insight and guidance from experienced parents and carers. In March 2022, I co-wrote two articles for the UniTasterDays Parent Guide with Parent and Carer Ambassadors, and we were the only institution that included quotes and content from actual parents and carers.

Steps taken

Working across the counties, I worked to understand similar projects, particularly the neaco Suffolk Parent Ambassador scheme. Adapting recruitment resources from the existing schemes, I worked with HR and the Outreach team at UEA to develop recruitment and induction processes, including role descriptions, application forms, DBS checks and training.

To recruit Parent and Carer Ambassadors, I promoted the opportunity through multiple channels including neaco target and hub schools, the Take Your Place website, relevant social media, and Norwich Opportunity Area contacts. We recruited during a period of restrictions due to Covid19, with no face-to-face access to parents and carers, so I was actually delighted to receive 6 brilliant applications for the role.

Through informal interviews, as a chance to get to know the experiences and view of the applicants, I recruited 4 Parent and Carer Ambassadors with diverse experience of supporting their young people through FE and HE. A further 2 organically joined the team as they are both parents and mature learners at UEA.

I’ve responded to the identified needs of Parent and Carer Ambassadors by developing training and supporting to enable them to feel confident in the role, including training on presentation skills delivered in January 2022.

Each Parent and Carer Ambassador has a profile and has been invited to Outreach meetings to meet the wider team. This develops relationships between the team and the ambassadors, ensuring the team considers how they could best support parental engagement and request support for parent-focused activities.


What would we do differently

I learnt, and am still learning, how vital initiatives like Parent and Carer Ambassadors are for increasing parent voice in parental engagement. The key is to ensure this voice of experience and insight is heard and valued when both planning parent and carer activities, as well as when delivering the activities. Our team learn so much from the Parent and Carer Ambassadors, because they have first-hand experience of supporting their young people to apply for and go through Higher Education, and are confident in communicating those experiences, the good, the bad and everything in between.

My advice would be to start with a small team. Initially we planned to recruit a team of 15 Parent and Carer Ambassadors, and now I realise not only was it unrealistic during Covid19, but also unnecessary. It has been so important to focus on understanding the diverse experiences of a small team of parents and carers and committing more time to ensure they understands their role and feel confident and comfortable in it. The project is always developing, but now we’re in a stronger (and more manageable) position to offer new approaches to engaging with parents and carers. As requests for events and activities increase, we can start to recruit more Parent and Carer Ambassadors to help meet demand.


You need a member of staff committed to recruiting, training, listening to and coordinating a team of Parent and Carer Ambassadors. All our Parent and Carer Ambassadors are paid, so you’ll need finances to pay an hourly wage as well as reimbursing travel costs. Our team are also paid for their time in meetings and for any planning time if they’re talking at an event. A good amount of my time goes towards admin tasks for coordinating the team, including communications, timesheets, meetings and preparing briefings.