App built in Stratford flat helps low-income pupils into top universities

Zero Gravity founder Joe Seddon.

Zero Gravity founder Joe Seddon. - Credit: Jack Petchey Foundation

An organisation started by a Stratford man to increase social mobility for low-income students has helped more than 1,000 young people reach top universities.

In May last year, Joe Seddon, 23, launched free video mentoring platform Zero Gravity, which connects university applicants with volunteer undergraduate mentors.

“I wanted to find a way to use technology to have a social impact and I was very passionate about helping students from low-income backgrounds get into the best universities,” Joe told the Recorder.

“I’d seen there were schools in the UK, like Brampton Manor in Newham, who have done an incredible job of very quickly transforming the prospects of low-income students.

“By doing that digitally, rather than just doing it for people in one school, you can do it for students across the country.”

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Joe comes from a low-income background himself, growing up in a single-parent family and attending a state school in West Yorkshire, before going on to study philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford.

Zero Gravity aims to put a mentor in the pocket of low-income students who want to go to a Russell Group or Oxbridge university.

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“It has been designed to feel like an app that a student would use in their day-to-day life because that’s [how] you create impact,” Joe said.

Throughout the pandemic, Joe has worked out of his flat, running a full-time team of five and watching the platform grow rapidly.

It now has 4,000 undergraduate mentors across the country, who volunteer one hour a week.

Mentors and mentees are found through social media, with people able to sign up from their phones as easily as they could do for Facebook or Instagram account.

“The pandemic has revealed to everyone the extent of education inequality in this country,” Joe added. 

“When people got locked down, some were learning from home in their multi-million pound townhouses getting really great virtual lessons from their private school and others were in really cramped accommodation with no laptop and struggling to get any lesson time.

“I wanted to find a way to really level the playing field when it came to helping the most talented students from low-income backgrounds get into universities and, ultimately, the careers they deserve."

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