The summer heatwaves did little to deter the Access and Admissions Office from delivering a packed summer schedule. From treasure hunts to graffiti workshops, summer 2022 saw the Access and Admissions office deliver a wide variety of events and programmes.

This summer’s Access and Outreach activities began with the recommencement of in-person Open Days in June. Prospective students from across the country considering an application to the University Oxford came to visit. The Open Days took place across two days in June, with the entire university opening its doors to prospective students and their families. St John’s college welcomed over 4,000 visitors over the course of the two days, all keen to explore what the college had to offer. Our Admissions Officer and Student Helpers did a fantastic job ensuring that both days were well organised and memorable for all. It was great to see so many prospective students exploring St John’s in person again – with numbers of visitors similar to those seen pre-pandemic! More information on the Open Day successes can be found here.

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On July 2nd, the college welcomed a group of students enrolled in the Year 12 Inspire Programme to a pioneering Inspire Research Skills Day. These students had all recently been awarded an Inspire Research Award, through which pupils are supported to independently research a topic of their choice, and offered training and resources through the Inspire Programme for Year 12 & 13. The Inspire Research Study Skills Day was generously supported by Oxford University Press, Blackwell’s Bookshop, the Bodleian Library, graduate students from across the University of Oxford, and Professor Dorothy Bishop. Over the coming months, pupils will work on either their Inspire Research Projects, or another independent study project such as an EPQ, using the books they bought with their Inspire Research Awards. Pupils who submit their Inspire Research Projects Posters will be awarded a certificate and invited to return to St John’s for a celebratory event in College next year.

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In the first two weeks of July, we welcomed over 300 pupils and teachers to St John’s to celebrate the three years in which they took part in our pilot sustained-contact Inspire Programme for Years 9, 10 & 11. Since 2019, pupils from 24 schools across our two London link boroughs of Ealing and Harrow have been participating in our pioneering three-year pilot outreach programme which has now developed into the Inspire Scholars Programme for Years 9, 10 & 11. These visits gave pupils and their teachers the opportunity to see the College on guided tours with current undergraduate students, to have lunch in Hall, and to learn more about St John’s and Oxford University as they prepared to enter sixth form. They also explored the University further, with a series of visits to Oxford’s museums and libraries organised jointly with our colleagues at the Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library, Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Museum of Natural History. Many of these pupils are now progressing onto the Inspire 12 & 13 Programme, and we are delighted to continue supporting them through their academic journey.

Over the summer, the access team welcomed 31 non-selective state secondary schools from across the St John’s link regions onto the Inspire Scholars Programme for Years 9, 10 & 11, our pioneering sustained-contact programme for pupils ages 13-16. Over 400 pupils are now enrolled on the Inspire Scholars Programme, and will take part in fortnightly super-curricular classes which have been developed by graduate students, academics, and teachers. In October, we ran the first of our virtual Inspire Parents & Guardian sessions, which aims to support the parents of Inspire Scholars. This session introduced parents and guardians to what university is and what university study looks like in 2022, and we had 80 parents tune in for the session. There will be lots of other exciting opportunities for these Inspire Scholars over the next three years, including residential and virtual summer schools, Aspiration Days, and visits to St John’s College.

The jewel in the crown of the Access and Admission’s office’s summer was the return of in-person residential summer schools. We hosted four summer schools, giving pupils an inside perspective on what it’s like to be a student at the University of Oxford. We were joined by pupils on the Pre-GCSE Inspire Programme, the Inspire Critical Thinking Programme, and our Inspire 12 & 13 Programme. The summer schools were hosted by six student ambassadors from St John’s and provided pupils with an immersive look at the academic, social and extra-curricular activities offered at Oxford. Some of the many activities’ students took part in included punting, a graffiti workshop, taster lectures from Oxford academics and a formal dinner in St John’s hall. Our Digital Engagement Officer Thomas Lockyer, has created an excellent summary video which can be viewed here.

The residential summer schools were supplemented with our innovative virtual summer schools. The virtual summer schools have been designed to enable pupils across the UK to access the St John’s experience alongside their busy summer schedules. 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.

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Alongside our partners from the Target Oxbridge Programme, we welcomed 50 pupils to the college to experience a fun and educational visit to the college to learn more about St John’s and the university more broadly. St John’s is proud to sponsor two places on the Target Oxbridge Programme, which is a free, sustained contact programme that aims to help Black African and Caribbean pupils and pupils of mixed race with Black African and Caribbean heritage increase their chances of getting into the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge. Since launching in 2012, Target Oxbridge has helped over 350 students to secure Oxbridge offers. We loved welcoming Target Oxbridge to St John’s, and hope to see many of the students back again soon!

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The 11th of September welcomed the City of Oxford’s Open Doors event at St John’s. Oxford Open Doors is a weekend that celebrates the heritage and culture of Oxford by giving everyone the chance to get behind Oxford’s closed doors. St John’s full programme included a series of talks on the college’s history, and numerous displays, from the college’s remarkable collection of late medieval vestments and embroidery to the St John’s masterplan to improve its resilience, simplify services and reduce its carbon emissions. The College’s mascot Agnes the Lamb also made an appearance at the children’s treasure hunt, where the opportunity to learn more about the history of St John’s whilst exploring the college’s grounds and gardens in search of lambs, took the college by storm.

Since the beginning of September, when pupils returned to school from their summer holidays, St John’s has also been welcoming groups of primary, secondary, and sixth form pupils to the college. These visiting school groups have engaged with a range of exciting activities, from University Detective hunts in the College grounds for younger pupils to personal statement workshops for the Year 12 pupils who are starting to think about their future study plans. Many school groups also opted to visit one of the University of Oxford’s fantastic GLAM (Gardens, Libraries and Museums) as part of their visit. As a testament to the success and popularity of these school visits, Michaelmas Term is now fully booked!

In early October we also opened registration for Inspire Critical Thinking 2022/23, our national programme for pupils in Years 9, 10 & 11 from non-selective state schools in the UK. The theme for this years’ programme is ‘Is Sport Ever Fair?’, and our four online workshops are chocked full of interesting and insightful articles from Oxford academics and graduate students, as well as helpful advice for how to improve their critical thinking skills, and information about university! We had over 1,800 pupils enrolled on our programme last year, and this year we are hoping to recruit even more. Registration closes on 30th of November, and the first class will be released in early January.

Moving forward towards Michaelmas term, as the temperatures begin gradually cooling, our sustained contact programmes in the Access and Admissions Office continue to gain momentum. The Inspire 12 & 13 Programme has launched recruitment for the Inspire 13 programme, ahead of the launch of the first Skills Session on Monday 17th October. Work is also currently under way on the Year 12 Programme, refining the programme and preparing to launch recruitment in December.