Twenty-seven teachers from state schools around the country were selected in a competitive process, with each participant asked to produce a research proposal describing how they would best make use of a week at St John’s College with full access to both the Bodleian and St John’s Libraries.
The purpose of the scheme is to make the excellent study facilities of the College and University available to school and college teachers, to pursue a project of their choice that contributes to their personal and professional development. This might be preparation of new schemes of work, developing resources, research into provision for high-achieving students, writing journal articles, or study towards a higher degree or professional qualification. In addition, the week is an opportunity to learn more about Oxford’s application process and gather experience and information to help with advising students who may wish to apply. All teachers who attend have the opportunity to meet the Admissions team and, where possible, academics in the College working in the same subject area.
One of the teachers attending this year’s Study Week was Andrea Brandon who works with sixth-form students in Surrey. For her project she was investigating the increase in mental health problems amongst students by looking at the causes and at ways of delivering pre-emptive guidance and effective support.
Reflecting on her week at St John’s Andrea said:
‘The Study Week at St John’s has given me the time and space to design structures of support in order to help students to avoid the critical states for which external support is so lacking. Using research on the stressors affecting the mental health of students, I am creating PSHE (personal, social and health education) lesson content to be delivered to sixth-form students as an integral part of their education. I am also working on support for parents as it is clear that, if we are going to make a difference, we need everyone to be involved. These sessions involve discussions of various mindsets which are unhelpful to the student’s growth. Titles for these sessions include: ‘The Approval Trap’, ‘The Perfectionist Anomaly’, ‘The Tyranny of Social Media’, ‘Unrealistic Thinking’ and ‘The Agency in You’.
Research into existing models of mental health support at Oxford convinced me of the efficacy of online support and also suggested an alternative to the stigmatised ‘mental health’ label. Stigma is a powerful silencer, but the term ‘Mental Wealth’ flips this on its head, encouraging individuals to recognise the value of taking time to improve their state of mind and their outlook.’
Andrea also achieved more than she was expecting during the week, including talking with College tutors, watching performances of Shakespeare and visiting the Raphael exhibition at the Ashmolean.
‘Two clear highlights have been sitting alone in St John’s chapel whilst the organist played a magnificent piece of music, and Mr Stewart Tiley, the College Librarian, allowing me a private viewing of Caxton’s second edition of Chaucer’s works. Being able to turn pages printed 600 years ago, and to read Chaucer’s words, was priceless.’
" I would encourage anyone to take advantage of this truly amazing week if they get the chance. " Andrea Brandon, Sixth-Form Student Support and Guidance Co-ordinator - Hinchley Wood Sixth Form (Esher, Surrey)
For more information please visit the teacher study week page or read Andrea Brandon’s full account of her experience here.