St John’s continues to play a leading role in Oxford’s access and outreach initiatives.

Last term saw the launch of a series of firsts for the Access and Admissions Office, including new in-person outreach events and the opening of a new library at a local Primary School. Read on to find out more about the Access Team’s work from Lucy Russell, Programme Coordinator for Inspire Years 12 and 13.

Inspire Primary

Bayards Hill Primary School, World Book Day 2023

On 3 March Bayards Hill Primary School’s brand-new library officially opened its doors with a World Book Day celebration. Beginning over six months ago, St John’s Access team members and generous student volunteers have been travelling regularly to Bayards Hill to deliver and organise the numerous boxes of books for the pupils donated by St John’s. The College has also donated bookshelves and supported the school with a £5k grant that enabled their most disadvantaged students to participate in school trips.

The new library is a spacious and welcoming space that provides a range of books and resources for the school’s pupils, as well as a comfortable environment for reading and learning. The project has also been supported by Oxford University Press which has supplied resources and expertise to encourage a love of reading among children and to help them develop their literacy skills. To read more about the new library, please see this article.

Inspire 9, 10 & 11

Inspire, Year 9, 10, and 11 programme

Hilary Term also saw the first Inspire Years 9, 10 & 11 Teacher Leads Conference since the COVID pandemic. On the 29 March, Dr Eleanor Baker, Inspire Years 9,10, & 11 Project Lead, welcomed sixteen Inspire Teacher Leads to the College. The conference gave the Access Team a wonderful opportunity to thank the Inspire Teacher Leads from schools enrolled on the Inspire Scholars Programme for all their hard work and dedication. The conference included a talk from our very own President, Professor Dame Sue Black, on her experience in education, her exciting and varied career, and how she communicates sensitive and difficult subjects to young audiences. Callum Buchanan from the University of Oxford Careers Service also delivered a workshop on the education employment landscape and in-demand schools, and Dr Jim Harris, Teaching Curator for the Ashmolean Museum, led a practical workshop on the potential for using objects in teaching. Dr Baker said:

‘Our Inspire Scholars Programme for Years 9, 10 & 11 has been developed with input from non-selective state schoolteachers from across our link regions, and their enthusiasm, commitment and expertise are what helps make the programme so successful. We were delighted to welcome our Inspire Teacher Leads to the College for a day of Continuing Professional Development and networking.’

In addition to the Teacher Leads Conference, this term the Access Office has seen the introduction of Inspire Scholar Visit Days. St John’s has welcomed over 60 Inspire Scholars from five different schools currently enrolled on the Inspire Scholars Programme. The Inspire Scholars Programme for Years 9, 10 & 11 is a pioneering, sustained-contact programme which recognises the importance of each school’s community in supporting students to reach their academic potential. Find out more about this wonderful programme here.

Alongside the Inspire Scholars Programme, St John’s Access Team also runs the Inspire Critical Thinking Programme for pupils across the UK in Years 9–11. This programme focuses on a central theme, which is approached from a variety of subject viewpoints. Hilary Term saw the launch of all four workshops on the theme ‘Is Sport Ever Fair?’. These workshops contain articles written by academics and graduate students from across the University and have been accessed and enjoyed by over 1,000 pupils taking part. Examples of pupil work include ‘Performance-enhancing drugs: levelling the playing field or playing God?’ by Erin in Year 11 at Ysgol Bryngwyn; ‘Chaturaji: a predecessor of Chess’ by Nayna in Year 9 at St Clement Danes; and ‘The History of Auto Polo’ by Samuel in Year 10 at Felpham Community College. Congratulations to all the pupils who have taken part in this year’s Critical Thinking Programme.

" Our Inspire Scholars Programme for Years 9, 10 & 11 has been developed with input from non-selective state schoolteachers from across our link regions, and their enthusiasm, commitment and expertise are what helps make the programme so successful. " Dr Eleanor Baker, Inspire Years 9, 10 & 11 Project Lead

Inspire 12 & 13

Following the successful launch of the Inspire 12 Programme in January, we have welcomed over 400 pupils on the Programme to our live Skills Sessions. Session 1 focused on the University of Oxford and how to prepare a research project. Year 12 Pupils enrolled on the programme are invited to submit an Inspire Research Project by Wednesday 25 April 2023. The Second Session focused on Understanding Student Finance, including both live and recorded elements to help our Inspire pupils understand how to manage their money at university and to ask any questions they had.

Our Digital Engagement Officer Thomas Lockyer has been hard at work updating the Inspire 12 & 13 website into a new and exciting Inspire 12 & 13 Programme Hub. You can view the Inspire Website here to take a look at Thomas’s fantastic new design! The redesign of the Inspire 12 & 13 Hub forms part of a broader transformation of the Inspire Digital website currently being undertaken by Thomas.

Study Days and Subject Exploration Days

Inspire Study Days

In Hilary Term we hosted events in two subjects, including the inaugural Geography Study Day delivered by St John’s College. Study Days offer high-achieving Year 12 students at non-selective state schools an opportunity to experience higher-level study in their chosen subject and to visit the College. We welcomed over 200 pupils from across the country to the Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Virtual Study Day.

Further Study Days and Subject Exploration Days are planned for Trinity Term in Maths and Computer Science, Modern Languages, Chemistry and English. We are very much looking forward to welcoming these pupils to the College.

We have received over 170 excellent submissions for this year’s Classics and Ancient History Essay Competition. Year 12 students from across the country were invited to submit essays in response to questions such as ‘Discuss the role of bad memories in ancient literature’ and ‘Sometimes we have false memories. So can we ever trust what we remember?’ set and marked by our Classics tutors. Entrants are invited to a Subject Exploration Afternoon on 19 April 2023.

Access Visits to St John’s

Access Visits, Hilary Term 2023

The team has been very busy this term with in-bound Access Visits to the College from pupils from non-selective state schools in our Link Regions. We have welcomed over 550 pupils this term from a range of years groups, beginning with our Inspire Primary cohorts, all the way up to Year 12 pupils preparing to begin their university applications.

This year the Access and Admissions Office is hosting an Offer Holder Open Day. This marks another first for the team. We are expecting over 90 students who have already secured an offer from St John’s. For many of these students, this will be the first time they have visited the College, due to the online admissions process.

During the Easter Vacation, we also welcomed the return of the Access and Admissions Interns. This year we had the fantastic support of Bailey Jones (Third Year, Medicine), Chloe LaRiviere (Second Year, Law) and Bulcsu Diossi (First Year, PPE). The support of the Interns has been invaluable, and we are very thankful for all their hard work and dedication.

We also welcomed in a team of Summer School Ambassadors, to help in the coordination and planning of this year’s Inspire Summer Schools. The team have developed a range of exciting and thoughtful activities, from exciting arts and crafts to a murder mystery afternoon – but no spoilers, we will be announcing more information about this year’s Summer Schools soon!