Empowering school students

3rd February 2020

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Getting a flavour of student life at Oxford, thirty students from St Paul's Catholic School attended an academic Taster Day at Wadham.

  • visiting school students

    Visiting school students

  • Access Officer Hugh Munro

    Access Officer Hugh Munro

  • Catherine Fan teaching

    Catherine Fan leads the Engineering taster session

  • visiting school students
  • visiting school students
  • visiting school students
  • Hugh Munro teaching
  • visiting school students
  • visiting school students enjoying lunch in Hall

    Enjoying lunch in Hall

I feel very strongly that my students have as much right to be here as anybody else, but unless we empower them and make them realise it’s a possibility, they won’t aspire to it

Sharon Albone, Senior Sixth Form Tutor

Accompanying them was Sharon Albone, a Senior Sixth Form Tutor, who believes passionately in the importance of raising the aspirations of her Milton Keynes based students.

The Year 12 students, aged 17, have embarked on their A level courses and were finding out more about what an engineering or social sciences seminar might be like as well as getting a feel for Wadham and meeting students from their school who are now studying at Oxford.

“I have been bringing our most able students here since the early 2000s. I feel very strongly that my students have as much right to be here as anybody else, but unless we empower them and make them realise it’s a possibility, they won’t aspire to it,” said Sharon.

“It’s important for our current students to see that they could achieve this and flourish here in Oxford. We are very excited that two of our students have just had offers from Oxford this year – to read Medicine and Modern Languages. And many of those who do not get to Oxford are getting into other elite universities like Durham and Manchester.”

“Very few of the parents from our school have experience of an institution like Oxford University,” she added. “They often have degrees gained in other countries but tend not to be working in graduate level jobs in the UK. Financial concerns about Oxbridge are often a big issue for the parents – they do not realise that it will often be cheaper for their children to come to Oxbridge because the bursaries are second to none.”

Wadham’s Head of Access and Outreach, Hugh Munro, travels to Milton Keynes several times a year. In May he hosts a parents’ information session for St Paul’s and neighbouring schools in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Bedfordshire. This is followed further visits for a Personal Statement Workshop in September and a Preparation for Interview session in November.

Jhan Carlo who is studying Psychology, Maths and Engineering at A Level was visiting Oxford for the first time. He particularly enjoyed participating in the academic taster session led by Hugh. “We were talking about the structure-agency debate and we could get really engaged with it. If I get the grades I would definitely consider Oxford,” he said. Fellow student Nana who is studying English Literature, Language, History and Applied Science added: “The lifestyle here is not how it’s portrayed in the stereotypes – it’s down to earth.”

DPhil student Catherine Fan led the engineering taster session provoking much discussion on questions such as what percentage of bacteria can be grown in the lab and the ratio of human cells to bacteria in our bodies.

Wadham’s access and outreach programme offers schools in its link regions a variety of events aimed at inspiring talented young people to apply to university.