What happens on… A Scholar Residential

Published: 5 Jun 2018

Every year, students on our Scholars Programme will hop aboard a coach and travel to Foxton for a residential course. But what actually happens when they arrive? We joined a group of Year 12 Scholars from Tyneside to find out more…

Day one – the launch

Late one February afternoon, a bus containing 28 STEM Scholars from Tyneside pulled up in Foxton ready for the ‘launch’ meeting, where their project was to be revealed. They were to take on a brand new project developed with our partner, Havas, a global advertising agency.

After an ice-breaker game to get the Scholars mixing, Heleana Blackwell, a strategist from Havas (and Villiers Park trustee) introduced their challenge: create a new brand of popcorn and pitch it to a panel of industry experts. Their brief was a big one – they had to consider the brand, audience, marketing activity and crucially, the budget – and be ready to present it all in under 48 hours.

The Scholars were assigned teams and given a pack of information, worksheets and of course, bags of popcorn, to help them navigate the task. Jo Gurvidi, Programme Director and course tutor, held a discussion titled ‘What makes a good team’, helping the Scholars to identify key behaviours they should be displaying, such as organisation, good leadership and communication. Research then got underway, with the teams comparing the competition – both for their branding and their taste – before a dinner cooked by our in-house chef.

Day two – developing skills

Bright and early the next day, the Scholars, who are all studying STEM A-levels, were joined by Tom O’Neill, our chemistry tutor and PhD student at the University of Cambridge. He delivered a talk to help the Scholars understand the transferable skills they will be developing by completing the project, asking them to critique pitches written by scientists seeking funding for new drugs.

“Scientists need to be able to communicate their work, to sell their science and get people to fund their research,” he explained. “Research and presentation skills are fundamental in the world of STEM.”

The day then continued in a whirl of research and practice pitching, including an afternoon Skype call with Heleana from her London office. After dinner, the Scholars were joined by a Villiers Park favourite, Paul Cook, delivering his dynamic ‘maths of juggling’ workshop.

Day three – time to pitch

The nerves were palpable as our expert panel comprising Richard Bland and Anthea Hughes from Kiss Communications, a digital, PR and advertising agency, and Sue Keogh, owner of Sookio, a digital agency, walked into the conference room.

Each team had 15 minutes to pitch their popcorn and field questions from the panel, who were scoring them for their ideas, their analysis of the marketplace and their understanding of the audience – along with their overall pitch. Their ideas were:

Mrs Muybridge: A popcorn named after Eadweard Muybridge – a man linked with the ‘birth of the cinema’  that had a vintage feel and was sold in recyclable conical boxes.

Pop’s Corn: ‘Pop’ was a character based on ‘the friendly old man in your street that everyone knows’, who had also travelled the world – bringing his unique flavours back into his popcorn, such as wasabi.

Toon Pops: Aimed at children – a gap in the market identified by the team the ‘toons’ were a range of cartoon monsters who livened up the packaging and the popcorn itself would be dyed bright colours.

Popemon: Based on the popular game Pokémon and riding on the back of its popularity, this low calorie popcorn had fruit flavours such as lemon and blueberry and the packages featured collectable cards.

Poppings: A twist on Mary Poppins, Poppings was free from artificial colours or flavourings and was aimed at families. Its strapline was ‘a handful of popcorn helps the movie go down’.

In addition to their creative ideas, the Scholars gave thought to the environment and sustainability, diets and healthy eating, value for money and how to stand out from the crowd.

After much deliberation and considered feedback, the judges picked their favourite and the project was complete.

At lunch, we caught up with four friends, Abby, Erin, Abby and Hannah.

They all agreed that their residential had exceeded their expectations and that they could see how the skills they’d learnt applied to their STEM subjects.

“I’m quite proud of myself and what we came up with in a day and a half,” said Hannah. “The skills we’ve been focusing on – team work, resilience, and adaptability – will really help us.”

And with that, it was back on-board the coach for the five hour drive back to Tyneside.

“What’s so good about our residential courses for Scholars is the fact it’s a totally immersive experience,” said Jo, Programme Director.

“Scholars are able to develop their skills, try new things and be challenged in a supportive environment and we find this approach – coupled with the fact they are staying away from home – builds confidence and resilience in our young people.”

Our residential trips offer a number of benefits to students, including:

>> a bespoke, developed and inspirational activity schedule focused on their learning

>> exploring topics not covered in school

>> developing their ‘Skills4Success’, such as project management and being a team player

>> mixing with young people from different schools

>> boosting independence and self-confidence

>> trips to places they may never have seen

>> healthy and delicious food, cooked on site

>> input from expert tutors or industry professionals.