At the National Museum of Science and Media in Bradford, Dr John Parrington from Worcster explains genetics to Year 9 pupils

Tutors visit Bradford to offer academic tasters

9 November 2018

Worcester College in the University of Oxford is keen to see more of the students from Bradford applying to the most selective universities, which is why it teamed up with The Brilliant Club, an education charity, to try to make it happen.

Tutors from Worcester College visited Bradford on Friday, 9 November to give pupils from local state secondary schools a day of academic taster sessions in subjects ranging from Biomedical Sciences and Maths to Law, English Literature and Philosophy. Last year pupils began the programme by completing a challenging university-style course based on their tutors’ specific areas of research. Friday’s session gave them the chance to think about a much wider range of subjects. 

The College launched its new and innovative access programme in 2017, in partnership with The Brilliant Club, to try to support pupils from Bradford at an early stage in their secondary education. Sixty pupils from five state schools in the area were enrolled on the programme starting from Year 8 (aged 12-13), and they will continue to be supported until Year 11 when they take their GCSE exams. Three groups of pupils will join the programme in successive years, with 180 pupils set to benefit between 2017 and 2023.

The programme of academic enrichment helps young people build the academic skills and confidence they need to apply for a place at universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge. As well as receiving mentoring from the tutors and trained undergraduate students at Worcester College, the pupils will make visits to Oxford and attend a residential summer school at Worcester College. They will also sample student life at other universities.

During the visit to Bradford today, five tutors from Worcester College gave inspiring academic taster lectures and workshops, with the central theme being genetic modification. Geneticist Dr John Parrington, who is originally from Bradford, gave the pupils a demonstration of how to extract DNA from a strawberry. The students also had time with each of the different subject tutors and were able to ask questions about going to university, access and the mentoring programme at a panel Q&A session.

As well as supporting the pupils through these crucial educational years, the tutors at Worcester are keen to hear the teachers’ views on what more universities could do to better support pupils in the Bradford area.

Dr Steven Methven, Tutor in Philosophy at Worcester College, said: ‘As someone from a background not typical to Oxford, I know how easy it can be to feel like Oxford might not be for you. That’s why we’re offering one-to-one support and mentoring to give young people in Bradford the confidence to  apply to some of the most selective universities. We want the students with a passion for their subject, whatever their background. We are also keen to reach out to the teachers and forge ever closer links with schools in the area.’ 

Dr Natalie Day, Area Director – North of England for The Brilliant Club, said: ‘We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Worcester College and Bradford schools on this multi-year programme. As well as completing two rigorous university-style courses with a PhD-level tutor, pupils are getting the opportunity to meet academics from different disciplines and to gain an in-depth understanding of life at the University of Oxford through a residential visit at Worcester College and online mentoring with a current undergraduate. We are excited to see how the project inspires the pupils in their study and university choices, and helps them fulfil their academic potential.’

Photo credit: Andy Garbutt Photography.