Members of the Access and Outreach Office at St John’s College have had a brilliant start to the academic year, having either run or attended a total of 24 events both at St John’s and at schools and colleges across the linked regions of East Sussex, West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, Ealing and Harrow. Not including the large university-level events such as careers fairs, parents’ evenings and open days, we have seen around 550 students from over 30 schools, and we looking forward to another packed winter term to come!
Particular highlights of the term were the Key Stage 4 Exploration Days, run by members of the College at St John’s in Oxford. These days always kick off with the ‘Oxford Explained’ introductory talk, which explains the courses and opportunities, collegiate system and gives a detailed outlined of the application process. The first slide of the presentation reads “Oxford is…” and students are encouraged to shout out how they might finish the sentence. Some of our favourite answers this term were, sensibly, “…a University”, “…a city”, and more inventively, “…hot-headed” and “…a mad ting”. One of the main points of the presentation is to demystify Oxford, so hopefully the latter students’ minds were changed!
[A group of students from the Sacred Heart Language College in Harrow in Front Quad during a KS4 Exploration Day. Jahnavi, a current St John’s student who helped out during the visit [far left], was herself a pupil at Sacred Heart, who came on a visit like this to the college a few years ago!]
Following the talk, a number of current undergraduate students from a range of subjects run a brief question and answer session, which always helps to keep the day informal and provides a useful peer-level insight into the University. The next component of the day is the critical thinking seminar, which is a new addition to the Exploration Day, and has proven to be extremely popular with students and teachers. Students are split up into groups depending on subject preference and are given an interview-style or source questions to discuss amongst themselves. The current undergrads and access team help facilitate the conversations, provide impromptu follow-on questions and encourage debate between the students. After a few minutes, the group comes back together for class feedback and students get the chance to explain their answers to the whole group. Some of the answers have been fantastic, very well thought out, and often led to continued conversations over lunch.
[Students from the Alec Reed Academy in Ealing in Thomas White Quad during a KS4 Exploration Day.]
After a bite to eat in the college Hall, the students head off for their afternoon sessions. We have been fortunate enough to be able to offer a brilliant range of activities in the afternoons including manuscript exploration and calligraphy writing in the St John’s College Library, an astrolabe workshop in the Museum of the History of Science, object-handling sessions in the Pitt Rivers Museum, an introduction to translating French poetry with Marie Elven, a taster lecture in the Department of Computer Science and a seminar on management control systems with a current DPhil student.
[Students from Felpham Community College in West Sussex enjoying the excellent object-handling session at the Pitt Rivers Museum with Education Officer Kelly Slater.]
We also held a study day in Theology, full details of which can be read here [link to other article], and launched the second year of the Inspire Programme. The first twilight sessions took place at Bentley Wood High School in Harrow, and Greenford High School in Ealing, and were a great success with all students being intellectually stimulated by a variety of taster sessions and workshops delivered by academics from the University of Oxford and beyond. We were also very excited to announce the release of the new digital platform for Inspire: Inspire Digital (sjcinspire.com), a great new resource for prospective university applicants and students in general, packed out with articles, questions, puzzles, competitions, polls and much more!
A huge thank you to everyone involved with our access and outreach work this term past! We are looking forward to doing more of the same in the terms to come.