Three of our Scholars were recently among forty-three students given a unique opportunity to experience life at a Cambridge college that has taught princes, poets, spies and even prime ministers.
The new residential course for Year 11 students ran in partnership with Trinity College's widening participation team and staff from Villiers Park Educational Trust, and thanks to funding from Stonehouse Educational Foundation.
Students from across the country came together for the three day experience from 12-15 August, where they gained a personal insight into what life might be like as an undergraduate, as well as advice and guidance on their A-level subject choices and information on how to apply to Cambridge.
To ensure the residential supported those who would benefit most, priority for places were given to students who will be the first in their family to go to university, or who met other widening participation criteria.
Hastings Scholar Jack (second from the right) with his academic challenge group.
"It was a very good way of showing us what it is like at Cambridge, as well as how university is and what it would actually be like to go there," said Jack, a Year 11 Hastings Scholar who took part. "We haven't had to be as independent before, for example making sure we were in lectures at the right time, so it was useful to get into that habit during the course.
"Overall it was really helpful because I would quite like to go to Cambridge, and it was good to know specifically what we had to do to apply."
The course began in true Cambridge style with a punting trip on the River Cam, before moving on to a series of lectures and seminars for a taste of university-level study. Topics ranged from Democracy in Ancient Athens to Trump and the EU Referendum. The students were also given a number of team-building activities led by our very own Director of Education Sarah Chick, such as building a ping pong run made entirely of paper. Based on the Villiers Park Skills4Success model, each activity was designed to build key personal and employability skills such as resilience and problem solving.
"When we first started working in groups, everyone were complete strangers, but the activities we had to do made it a lot easier to work as a team and get to know each other," Tyneside Scholar Jayne said, thinking back to what she gained from the course.
"We also talked to a student panel, and they were telling us about all the different courses. It gave me a clear focus on what I wanted to do, and helped me decide that I wanted to study either English or Maths."
Trinity School Liaison Officers Terri-Leigh Riley and Ellie Wood, with Sarah Chick, Director of Education at Villiers Park.
"By combining academic, personal and employability based activities, we hope to provide students with the broad experience needed to give them a head-start when it comes to their sixth form studies and applying to university," said Sarah Chick.
To complete their educational experience, the students were then split into smaller groups and given a choice of challenging questions on topical issues, such as whether mental and physical health are separate issues, the challenges facing antibiotics, and the use of referenda in modern democracy.
Tyneside Scholar Jayne (far left) with her academic challenge group.
The groups were given 48 hours to research and plan their ideas, before presenting these without the use of technology. To maintain a university standard, they were required to use at least one scholarly article, a reference from the library and also a quote from an academic at the university.
"We were set the task of looking at mathematical sociology and explaining this as a topic," said Hastings Scholar Jack. "It was very interesting because it's not something I would have thought of looking into before, and something to think about for the future."
The feedback from the group task has already been very positive, with 100% of students saying this improved their confidence and open-mindedness, and 75% saying they saw a large improvement in both these areas.
"As this was our first residential for Year 11 students, it was brilliant to catch them before they make their crucial A-level choices and to give them an academic boost just before they start their A-levels," reflects Terri-Leigh, School Liaison Officer for Trinity College.
"It was incredible to see how much their confidence grew throughout the residential, culminating in their project presentations, which we were so proud to see all completed to an extremely high standard. We have learned so much from collaborating with Villiers Park, and are hugely grateful for the opportunity."