Bradford pupils ‘Think Big’

28 March 2019


‘What do you think Oxford is like?’ is the question posed to pupils from Bradford as soon as they arrive at Worcester for their first ever visit. ‘Posh’, ‘pretty’, ‘rich’ come some of the replies – a sustained outreach programme from Worcester College hopes to show them that Oxford University is more than that, and really could be a place for them.

These 50 students, aged 12-13 years old from state schools in Bradford, have come to Worcester with their teachers to experience Oxford for themselves in an effort to dispel misconceptions about the University. They have today been enrolled on ThinkBig Bradford, a programme that supports 180 students across five state schools throughout years 8-11.The idea is to inspire those with academic potential to consider studying at Oxford or another highly selective university in the UK on leaving school.

After being welcomed onto the programme, the school students met with current Worcester students and were taken on a tour of the college and learnt from the access and admissions officer Charli Hopkins what university, and Oxford specifically, might have to offer them. They had taster sessions on philosophy, history and maths to stretch them academically and introduce them to some of the kinds of learning environments that they might participate in at university.

The pupils from Bradford are in Year 8, but while the first years of secondary education might seem early to begin thinking about university, research has shown that early and sustained intervention in students’ achievement at school is the best way to ensure that young people from all backgrounds are able to progress on to university education. Worcester designed this bespoke programme with education charity, The Brilliant Club, to support students to realise their academic potential as they approach GCSEs and beyond.

Their comments at the end of the day are promising: 'I think that it's made me excited about the future and what courses I am going to do', 'It gave me a lot more inside knowledge about Oxford' ,and 'It's a great, approachable and exciting environment.'

Over the three years of the programme, the students will take part in workshops with Oxford tutors, a mentoring programme with current Worcester undergraduate students, and will visit Worcester for a residential summer school, amongst other activities. They will be supported by PhD tutors in their schools to work on projects to enrich their school work and stretch them beyond the standard curriculum.

Last year’s cohort of students from Bradford, who began the programme when they were in year 8 and are now year 9 students, will join us at Worcester for a four-day residential in June. We look forward to working with them around the big question, ‘Is a robot a human?’. The students will approach this question from different points of view, and work with tutors from different disciplines to come up with their own response. The ThinkBig programme will continue to support them until they take their GCSEs.

Dr Marchella Ward, Tinsley Outreach Fellow, said: ‘Early engagement with school students is a really important part of university outreach. So often students don’t think about higher education until they have already narrowed down their options – sometimes without realising they have done so. Projects like ThinkBig are all about setting students up to succeed by ensuring that they get the best possible GCSE results and are able to make informed choices about moving on to A-Levels and beyond.’

The Think Big programme is funded by Worcester College. Click here for more information

Follow Worcester on Twitter and Instagram for updates on what our big thinkers get up to: @WorcCollegeOx // worcestercollegeoxford