200 pupils, 50 punts and 24 academic sessions: the 2022 Inspire Summer Schools

Date 10 August 2022

During the last week of July and first week of August 2022, St John’s celebrated the return of in-person residential summer schools.

These four summer schools gave a taste of what it’s like to be a University of Oxford student to pupils on the Pre-GCSE Inspire Programme (a three-year sustained contact programme in Ealing and Harrow), the Inspire Critical Thinking Programme (an online programme for pupils in Years 9, 10 and 11 across the UK), and our Inspire 12 & 13 Programme (a programme for pupils across Ealing, Harrow, and the Oxford for South East region).

Hosted by six St John’s student ambassadors, the pupils engaged with a packed timetable spanning the academic, extra-curricular and social aspects of university life.

Academic sessions covered ten subjects, and included workshops on Mining in Honduras, the Roman Empire in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, Responding to COVID-19, and The Relationships between the Nuns of Godstow Abbey and the Scholars of Oxford. We’re particularly grateful to Dr Christoph Bachhuber, Lecturer in Archaeology here at St John’s for his well-received introduction to Archaeology.

" The academic taster sessions challenged me to think critically and to use analytical skills " Y12 Inspire Pupil


The remainder of the timetable was filled with a busy programme that allowed pupils to explore more of what Oxford has to offer. Pupils were offered the chance to try their hand at the quintessentially Oxford activity, punting, followed by a BBQ and garden games in the lovely grounds of St Giles House.

Pupils were also able to choose from a wide range of extra-curricular activities, including rounders in the University Parks, interactive acting and technical sessions at the Oxford Playhouse, graffiti and creative arts workshops, walking tours of Oxford with one of the Inspire Interns, Emmet, and trips to other colleges and University of Oxford museums.

The sessions concluded with a formal dinner in St John’s beautiful Hall, which allowed pupils to cement friendships and celebrate what was, for nearly everyone, their first residential visit to Oxford. We hope it won’t be the last!

" All the staff were really helpful and very nice, so the summer school felt very welcoming and friendly " Y11 Inspire Critical Thinking Pupil

The success of the summer schools is a credit to staff and students from all areas of the College, and the Access Team would like to thank all those who gave their support. Indeed, the most common feedback received was that the pupils wished they could have stayed for longer!

Thomas Lockyer, Digital Engagement Officer in the Access Office, has created an excellent summary video which can be viewed here.

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Inspire Virtual Summer Schools

Alongside the residential summer schools, the Access Team also delivered virtual summer schools through our Inspire Digital website. Over 1000 pupils on our Inspire Programmes were guided through a series of interactive resources and challenges that were designed to develop their interests beyond the curriculum.

New content was released each day, and included talks on biodiversity and using cartoons to understand history, to activities engaging with fluid dynamics and coding. We’re grateful to all the experts who developed these, including many researchers here at St John’s.

For Year 12s, the virtual summer school included the Career Inspiration Hub, in which pupils explored the vast range of future career options available to them. Pupils had the opportunity to “meet” alumni and friends of St John’s, including broadcaster Evan Davis, CEO Howard Kerr, start-up founders, civil servants and geologists.

We hope that the opportunity to engage with the range of career destinations to which graduates have progressed will help to inspire pupils’ educational journey.

Our partners at the University’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums also supported the virtual summer schools through their exhibition resources, such as the Ashmolean Museum’s engaging podcasts, and the ‘Talking Threads’ exhibition from the Pitt Rivers Museum, which showcases Palestinian embroidery.

Throughout the summer school, there were lots of opportunities for participants to share their work for the chance to win Amazon vouchers and be featured on Inspire Digital.

All virtual summer school content is still available to view until the 23rd September, whilst the competitions close on the 31st August.