The last few months have been an incredibly busy, exciting and rewarding time in the College’s outreach and access programme. St John’s has been reaching out to an ever-increasing number of school pupils, to share with them what living and studying in Oxford is all about, and to encourage them to aim high for their future.

At the core of this work is the new St John’s Inspire Programme, an ambitious outreach programme for pupils in years 9-13 in the state schools in our link regions of the London boroughs of Harrow and Ealing. Its purpose is to encourage pupils with promise to raise their aspirations, to stretch themselves academically, to develop their interests and to grow in confidence, so that they can make well-founded applications to top universities such as Oxford.

Inspire Yr 10 Subject Exploration DayYears 9 and 10
For pupils in Year 9 there are aspiration-raising events in their schools, and in Year 10 Subject Exploration Days, where tutors from Oxford talk about studying their subject, to inspire pupils to find out more and to help inform their A level choices.

Dr Priyanka Dhopade speaking to Year 10 pupils at an Engineering Subject Exploration Day.

Year 11
Year 11 pupils are invited to Academic Taster Days in Oxford. These are dynamic, hands-on days full of tours, activities and talks. In February this year, more than 60 pupils from Harrow and Ealing came to Oxford for two Taster Days, an Arts and Humanities Day and a STEM Day. On the first of these, following a talk on ‘Why museums collect and how we can learn from objects’ pupils visited the Ashmolean Museum where they enjoyed an object-handling session. The chance to get up-close, to touch the past, to hold it in their hands, was a real revelation.

'Two things I’ve learned today: how to ask questions and what to ask when studying sources, and don’t assume anything when looking at a source.'  Year 11 pupil, Arts and Humanities Visit Day

Dr Tom Crawford at an Inspire event 2018On the STEM Day dozens of pupils enjoyed a talk on ‘How maths can be used to enhance sports performance’ by Dr Tom Crawford. Tom, an alumnus of St John’s and our Access and Outreach STEM Associate, is on a mission to popularise maths and is well known as an excellent communicator with teenagers, regularly appearing on national and international media, as well as online. 

Dr Tom Crawford, Access and Outreach STEM Associate, at an Inspire Maths event.

Throughout the year, a series of subject-specific Newsletters emailed to the schools are also giving Year 11 pupils ideas for developing their reading and understanding of the subjects they’re interested in, information about the courses at Oxford, and case studies from both existing students and alumni, to bring to life what this high quality studying is really like, and show what career opportunities it can lead to after university.

Inspire Twilight March 18Years 12 and 13
The key year of focus for the Inspire Programme is Year 12. A series of five Twilight Sessions through the year, at the pupils’ schools, include academic taster talks by scholars from Oxford and expert guidance on how to make an effective UCAS application. The impact of the Programme is already clear to see. In the first three months of this year, more than 80 pupils from Harrow and Ealing have attended these Twilight Sessions, with a diverse mix of talks on topics such as ‘The future of food’, ‘The biomechanics of insect flight’, ‘Medieval history’, ‘Ruins and Romanticism in English literature’, ‘The wonders of the brain’ and ‘Calculating cancer: what can maths and computer science tell us about medicine?’. It has been clear from the pupils’ reactions that they’ve really enjoyed these sessions, and have been excited to learn and think about topics they don’t encounter at school.

Dr Sandra Campbell speaking to Year 12 pupils from Acton High Sixth Form, Dormers Wells High School, Featherstone High School, Greenford High School and Villiers High School, Ealing about the wonders of the brain, March 2018.

For pupils in Year 13, the Programme offers advice on UCAS applications and interviews.

'I am hoping to achieve a better understanding of the qualities universities are looking for, and that this experience will strengthen my ambition for academic learning.' Year 12 pupil, Twilight Session, Ealing

We want the pupils in our target schools to see that studying at a top university is for anyone who is passionate about their subject and prepared to work for it. By giving them opportunities to think deeply about what interests them, to ask questions and consider how best to answer them, we aim to support them as they grow in confidence and self-belief, and help them to see that it can certainly be for them.

St John's Inspire Programme

" I’m hoping to gain an insight into what is required to get into good universities, and see what opportunities are available, by talking to people with experience. " Year 12 pupil, Twilight Session, Harrow

St John's Inspire Programme