This sustained programme has targeted Year 10 pupils (aged 14-15,) selected according to academic criteria, from six Luton schools. This pioneering scheme has been made possible thanks to the generosity of a Wadham alumnus based in the US.
Launched in 2015, some 24 students were selected (all had to be predicted at least five Bs at GCSE) and widening participation flags such as eligibility for free school meals, no parental history of higher education or living in a low-participation area were taken into account in the selection process.
Each student has taken part in eight academic taster sessions held fortnightly after school in Luton. These taster sessions covered topic areas that the students were unlikely to have studied before at school (Classics, Engineering, Material Science, Politics, Theology, Earth Sciences, Computer Science, and Medieval Literature) in order to introduce them to the range of topics and subjects on offer at university.
During their day at Wadham, each of the school students gave a ten minute presentation on a subject of their choice ranging from Art and Classics to QR codes and Earth Sciences.
In addition to College tours led by Wadham undergraduates, the school students had the chance to question third year student Sarah Atayero (Psychology) who attended Cardinal Newman School in Luton. Sarah shared her experience on subjects as diverse as academic pressure, accommodation and finance.
Visiting the Ashmolean museum the school students were given hands on research experience learning about objects from the Ancient World.
As a reward for completing this year, each student received a Very Short Introduction book of their choice, which included The Brain, Dreaming, Nuclear Physics, Music, and The Devil. The books were presented to the students by the Warden of Wadham College, Ken Macdonald QC.
Explaining how the programme will continue, Access and Outreach Officer Emily Cannon stated: “In order to bridge Year 10 and Year 11, the students will be set a project to complete over the summer based on the book they have chosen. Following that, they will take part in sessions in Luton focusing on A Level choices and study skills and will celebrate the end of the whole scheme with a short residential at Wadham. Once they start Year 12, the students will be encouraged to attend the existing access events, including Wadham’s Year 12 Access Days and talks, as well as open days.”
By working with younger children, the Luton Project hopes to raise aspiration and attainment. Research from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission and the Bridge Group suggests that working with younger students is becoming more important, motivating them to achieve good GCSE results and preparing their paths to university.
The Schools taking part in the Luton Project are:
- Cardinal Newman Catholic School
- Challney High School for Girls
- Denbigh High School
- Putteridge High School
- Stopsley High School
- Lea Manor High School