Autumnal greetings from the Access Team! We’ve got so much to share with you since our last update about what has happened during the summer vacation and what is to come this Michaelmas Term.

Across our various programmes, we welcomed 861 students from a range of our linked schools for visits to the College. These events ranged from our Oxford Explained workshops, to our Primary Science Days, each of which saw 100 primary school students visit Oxford in collaboration with our Chemistry Department and Trinity College for a day filled with fun science experiments!

Access Conference Image

Additionally, we continued to run our popular Subject Study Days. These included study days in Chemistry, Modern Languages, Maths and Computer Science, and English. Our Study Days offer Year 12s from across the country to visit St John’s to get a taste of life at Oxford studying their subject. Places for Study Days are always in high demand as they offer a valuable experience for students, supporting them in making their higher education decisions. We are looking forward to running these again next year.

On 23rd July, we welcomed 74 eager Year 9 pupils for our annual residential Inspire Scholars residential summer school. Over the course of three days, these young scholars had a taste of university life, participating in a range of academic and social activities, and even a formal dinner in Hall. Students were fascinated to hear from Dame Professor Sue Black in her forensics lecture exploring the Viking remains found at St John’s, dating from the 10th Century!

Dr Petros Spanou

Our very own Dr Petros Spanou provided a session about the cultural and intellectual importance of illustrated newspapers and periodicals in nineteenth-century Britain. This interactive session allowed pupils to think about the significance of these media in Victorian culture and their impact on people’s daily lives and perceptions, drawing comparisons with the 21st-century press. Pupils were so excited to handle genuine copies of the ‘Illustrated London News’, dating from 1854!

In the afternoon, pupils enjoyed a variety of STEM workshops including an escape-room containing Chemistry puzzles, exploring the power of plasma, making slime to test its molecular structure and even learning how to 3D print with chocolate! We’d like to thank Saskia O’Sullivan, Darren Chan, Professor Robert Hoye and Helena Cotterill for running such fascinating workshops.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to our 25 Student Ambassadors, without whom none of this would have run so smoothly! Our trusty St John’s students took the lead in the academic ‘Introduction to Study at Oxford’ sessions, ran activities and tours, and were on hand to answer pupils’ questions. We would also like to thank our Student Interns, Bulcsu Diossi, Bailey Jones, Chloe LaRiviere, Antonia Sundrup, Dylan Worsley, Alfie Dry and Lily Middleton-Mansell for their contributions to the 2023/24 Inspire Critical Thinking Programme. We can’t wait to see their articles and videos launch in January 2024.

Access Student Ambassadors

We are looking to expand this team in the new term and will be hosting recruitment events and advertising rewarding paid opportunities for the coming academic year. Look out for the posters and QR codes around College to sign up.

For those who were unable to attend the in-person Inspire Summer Schools, St John’s College held an online Virtual Summer School. Over the course of a week, pupils were given access to academic talks and career interviews with various specialists, as well as the opportunity to submit to essay competitions with prizes. More than 750 Year 9s took part in the Virtual Summer Schools and there were some incredible competition entries with enquiring themes such as the relationship between the nuns of Godstow Abbey and the Scholars of Oxford; the significance of wounded Roman soldier veterans, and the acceptance of women into Oxford colleges in the 1970s. Congratulations to the prize winners for their thought-provoking essays.

This month we’ve welcomed two new members to the Access Team, Katie Inwood and Ben Mesure. Katie will be leading the Inspire Scholars 9, 10 & 11 programme and Ben is Access Lead. Alfie Dry will also be joining the team in October as a Digital Support Officer. We’ve sadly said goodbye to Richard Waters (former Access Lead) and Edith Richardson (Project Support Officer). We wish them all the best on their next venture.

We’ve been busy working behind the scenes ready for the start of Michaelmas Term, already having greeted over 50 Year 5s for a treasure hunt around College and planning many Primary and Secondary school visits for the coming weeks. Our calendar for access visits for the coming term is filling fast, so get in touch with if you would like your school to visit the College.