Tara O’Reilly wins Outstanding Achievement Award at the inaugural Student Social Mobility Awards at the House of Lords

Tonight, Social mobility charity, upReach, hosted the inaugural Student Social Mobility Awards, supported by the Social Mobility Commission and kindly hosted by upReach Patron Baroness Helena Kennedy QC at the House of Lords.

The Awards showcased the outstanding achievements of students from less-advantaged backgrounds, as well as recognising mentors, university and employer initiatives that have made a significant contribution to the social mobility landscape through enabling others to succeed.

In total, 26 awards were presented across the evening to students, mentors, university and employer initiatives. 22 undergraduates were presented with awards ranging from sector-focused awards to the upReach Ten, awarded to the ten students who had achieved, or had the highest potential to achieve academically, professionally or personally. The ceremony was rounded off by the announcement of Tara O’Reilly, a student at the University of London, as winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award, the award given to the undergraduate the judges felt had achieved the most.

Tara O’Reilly | Outstanding Achievement Award Winner

Tara grew up on council estates in inner London and has experienced homelessness; she worked full time while self-teaching her A Levels. She is now pursuing a full time Law degree as a mature student, while working full time in Parliament as the coordinator of the Labour Tribune MPs Group. Tara strongly believes in using her success to uplift other women, and has set up a coding club for women in Westminster. She is a Queens Young Leaders’ Advisory Mentor and is the youngest trustee of Peace Brigades International UK, a charity which protects human rights in 8 countries.

Tara said on the recognition: ‘I feel honoured to have won the Outstanding Achievement Award. I hope this encourages more people from similar backgrounds to persevere to achieve their goals – our backgrounds should not determine our futures.’

The Judging Process

The awards followed an extensive nomination and judging process, with over 200 undergraduates from 33 UK universities nominated. The independent judging panel comprises leading representatives from the fields of politics, academia, education and business.

A thorough process had been followed, using best practices to eliminate bias, such as anonymising nominations and removing names of employers and other organisations during the initial shortlisting and judging process, resulting in an incredible standard of winners across a range of awards. upReach would like to place on record its thanks to all the judges for their support, listed below.

The Evening

The awards saw a number of distinguished guests speak, including Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, upReach Patron and distinguished lawyer; Sasha Morgan, Director of the Social Mobility Commission; Richard King, Co-Head of UK & Ireland Corporate & Investment Banking for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Chris Milward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the Office for Students.

In a twist, the awards were expertly hosted by an upReach student and an upReach Mentor. Fatima Benkhaled (upReach Associate and King’s College London undergraduate), and Reggie Nelson (Analyst at Legal & General Investment Management, youth mentor and Chair of the ACCA Emerging Talent Advisory Group), both gave incredible accounts of their own journeys.

The Student Social Mobility Awards was supported by the Social Mobility Commission, coming two days after its relaunch and the appointment of twelve new Commissioners in October.

Rachael Millar, Head of the Social Mobility Secretariat, said of the awards: Social mobility means that your background does not determine your future. These awards recognise that some young people have to overcome more barriers than others to succeed, and that this success is all the more impressive.

The role of mentors and initiatives that support people is crucial – and we hope these expand so that everyone has the chance to realise their potential. We hope these individuals go on to transform the places they work, mentor young people in future, and open up opportunities to others so that everyone has the chance to realise their potential.’

In the foreword of the event programme, Dame Martina Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, also commended the Awards for highlighting positive social mobility stories. You can read Dame Milburn’s comments in the programme on the Student Social Mobility Awards website: https://studentsocialmobilityawards.org.uk/2018-programme/.

John Craven, Chief Executive of upReach, said of the Awards: ‘Tonight’s Awards are important because they showcase outstanding achievements, giving a glimpse of the enormous talent that exists in this country. Right now, much of this talent remains unrealised. A comprehensive school student is still 17 times less likely to get onto a graduate scheme at some top firms than someone from a selective school. The challenge is for us all to redouble our efforts to close the employability skills gap, create fairer access to work experience opportunities and ensure a level playing field in graduate recruitment, so that everyone has the potential to realise their career potential.’

upReach would like to thank everyone involved for their generous support of the Student Social Mobility Awards, without which the event would not have been possible.

The Student Social Mobility Awards featured students from all over the UK

The Social Mobility Index published by the Social Mobility Commission in 2017 showed a greater prevalence of social mobility coldspots in coastal, rural and former industrial areas than in London and the South East. Young people living in social mobility coldspots face even higher barriers to overcoming disadvantage, with lower university entrance rates and reduced rates of local pay. Even when a young person from a social mobility cold spot manages to secure a place at university, their chances of securing a top graduate job are limited.

The Student Social Mobility Awards saw hundreds of nominations from students across the UK, highlighting the incredible successes of students of many students from these social mobility cold spots. Support from sponsors including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, PwC, Allen & Overy, JMAN Group and Imitor Graphica has not only covered the costs of hosting the event in full, but has also helped to ensure that nominees from all over the UK were able to attend the awards at no cost, with their travel expenses refunded.


John Craven | Chief Executive, upReach Tel No. 020 3096 7893 (Mobile: 07971 274469)

Email   john.craven@upreach.org.uk

Notes to editors:

upReach is a charitable organisation supporting less-advantaged undergraduates to achieve their career potential, and plans to support 1100 to 1200 students in the 18/19 academic year. upReach partners with universities and top graduate employers to provide a comprehensive package of support, working to address the attainment gap for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds after university. Learn more at www.upreach.org.uk.  You can learn more about the Awards at www.ssma.org.uk

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