The Bedfordshire Project is a sustained contact programme led by Wadham College, working with all of the state schools in Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire. The project builds on the existing programme run by Wadham with non-selective state schools in Luton.
Thanks to generous funding from the Bedfordshire-based Connolly Foundation, 100 pupils annually will benefit from this curriculum enriching programme over the coming five years.
Six schools have each appointed a teacher acting as a ‘hub co-ordinator’ to organise, design and deliver content for the pupils in their own school alongside other ‘spoke’ schools in the area.
The programme targets small groups of pupils with the potential to study at highly selective universities, working with them across Years 10 and 11. Students will attend after-school master classes and have the opportunity to visit Wadham College to meet with staff and students to find out more about university life.
At the end of Year 11, students will have the opportunity to attend the College for a post-GCSE residential course. The funding to make all this possible has come from a partnership between Wadham College and the Connolly Foundation – the students won't have to pay anything.
Hugh Munro, access tutor at Wadham College, said: “It’s wonderful to have over 20 schools from across Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire signed up to take part in what is a new programme. Our aim is to show students with potential what it would be like at university - even if they decide not to apply they will have gained academic skills, knowledge and experience which will help them both at school and beyond. We anticipate that this project will increase the likelihood of disadvantaged, Bedfordshire-based participants attaining higher academic standards at school, and of entering higher education.”
Nigel Croft, head of the Redborne Teaching School Alliance and a trustee of the Connolly Foundation, said: “The Connolly Foundation exists to provide support for young people across Bedfordshire. I am delighted that the foundation has been able to assist with this opportunity for students who have the potential to benefit from a university education to find out more and hopefully to gain the skills and confidence to make informed choices that are right for them.”
Wadham's Warden, Ken Macdonald QC, adds: “Thanks to the wonderful generosity of the Connolly Foundation, more pupils will have a chance to discover Oxford and see that it could be a place for them. Wadham College has one of the most diverse student bodies in Oxford and we know that diversity drives up academic standards and cultivates intellectual curiosity.”
James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, comments: “Getting a degree from a leading university like Oxford is one of the surest routes to social mobility. However, young people from poorer homes remain under-represented at these universities. It is great to see this new partnership from Wadham College to improve access for state school pupils in Bedfordshire, including working with them early on in their secondary school careers. As with any new outreach programme, it will be important to evaluate the impact of the programme, to make sure it is reaching the right people in the right schools.”