A winter update from the St John's Access team

We hope you all had a lovely vacation! The Access team cannot believe we’re a term into this year already; we’ve been busy on numerous projects, and the time has flown by. Within the team we welcome Ollie Hedges, who has taken over as Inspire Years 12 and 13 Programme Lead. Petros has moved position within the team, and is now our Humanities Associate. At the end of December, we said goodbye to Ana who has moved on to a role at the Department of Chemistry.

A new academic year also sees the beginning of another busy admissions cycle, and the team have been hard at work welcoming hundreds of budding applicants to St John’s. Applications to St John’s once again numbered over 1000 and 995 interviews were conducted (with most applicants being interviewed twice). We want to congratulate the 147 students who have been offered a place.

Access Update HT24_Natural History Museum

Last term we had 440 visiting pupils across seventeen school visits. Pupils were welcomed to the College to participate in information and academic sessions, followed by lunch in the dining hall and a tour of the College. These visits often also collaborated with other colleges, departments or museums. Last term we organised a subject-taster session for pupils run by the Maths department, an object-handling session at the Natural History Museum and tours of other colleges. We already have seventeen more visits arranged for the coming term, and nine more that will take place in the Easter break.

In the middle of December, we opened applications for the Inspire Study Days and Subject Exploration Days. These events have been incredibly popular in previous years, and we look forward to welcoming a new set of Year 12 pupils to take part in them this year. Our Access Lead, Ben, is working hard in collaboration with the College’s academic tutors to make these events better than ever. If you would like more information about them, or are interested in applying, you can find them on our website.

Our Inspire Scholars Programme, for pupils in Years 9, 10 and 11, is going from success to success. Over the last term we have had six more schools join the programme, and now have over 900 pupils enrolled on the programme; almost double the number from this time last year! Six of these schools were awarded funding from our Aspiration Fund, to provide enrichment and team-building activities. These excursions included visiting The Horizon of Khufu experience, a trip to the Royal Albert Hall and a game-design workshop. We also ran our first virtual TeachMeet focused around Creating Challenge in the Classroom. The next planned teacher engagement will be a free conference hosted here at St John’s.

The Inspire Year 12 and 13 programmes are also gearing up for another busy year. The Inspire Year 13 programme has launched with 548 pupils currently registered on it. In November these pupils received access to their first workshop, which focused on how to have success in academic interviews. The next workshop, on Critical Thinking, becomes available in February. In addition to this, we have had a record number of poster submissions to the Inspire Research Project. Pupils that have submitted a poster have a Celebration Day in April to look forward to. Here they will get the chance to discuss the work that they have done for the research project, as well as seeing their posters printed and displayed. Applications for the Year 12 programme close at the end of January. As well as the workshops and super-curricular resources, pupils also get the option to submit work for their own research project, and can also apply to come on our Year 12 Summer School. If you are interested in applying for the programme you can find more information here.

Our links to local primary schools are as strong as ever through our Inspire Primary programme. In Michaelmas we welcomed 52 students from Larkrise Primary School who participated in a treasure hunt for some elusive lambs around College. We also continue to visit Bayards Hill weekly, with undergraduate ambassadors joining us on these visits. For Christmas we provided the school with a Christmas tree from the College's Bagley Wood for their assembly hall.

Finally, our first Critical Thinking workshop for the year has launched this week. The theme for the 2023/24 academic year is ‘Does crime always deserve punishment?’. We have already seen many of the 1569 engaging with the content on in the workshop. Any Year 11 pupils who submit work in response to any of the super-challenges in these workshops are invited to apply for a place on the residential Inspire Year 11 Summer School.