Despite the suspension of all face-to-face access and admissions activity at St John’s in March 2020, the Access and Admissions team has continued to work hard throughout the lockdown, providing information, advice and dedicated digital resources to students and teachers across the UK.
From mentoring support for incoming students and virtual open days for prospective applicants, to virtual learning materials for pupils participating in our various Inspire Programmes, St John’s has provided online support and guidance for over 4,000 young people over the past few months.
Virtual Open Days
We were delighted to see over 3,000 participants joining us for our Virtual Open Days on 1st and 2nd July, with over 500 questions answered by current St John’s students and staff. Our Open Days also included a variety of video interviews with current students and tutors to help prospective applicants understand the college system, the tutorial teaching style, the student experience at St John’s and much more. Our virtual tour with Agnes the Access Lamb proved very popular and we were also represented at virtual UCAS Fairs this summer.
We are already beginning to look ahead to the next academic year, and to welcoming a new group of incoming students to St John’s. We want to do our best to support these students as they prepare to begin their Oxford course in the autumn.
For this purpose, our tutors have put together some voluntary reading and other work so that offer-holders have a chance to get a flavour of their subject before beginning their course. In addition to academic preparation, this support also includes information and guidance about developing study skills, student life at Oxford, managing the costs of university and more.
Furthermore, existing offer-holders can be put in touch with a Student Ambassador currently studying their subject, or who has similar interests or a similar background. We hope that this will give our offer-holders a greater insight into what to expect once they arrive at St John’s, as well as being able to answer any questions they might have prior to joining us at St John’s in the autumn.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, all face-to-face activity on our various Inspire Programmes has been suspended since March 2020. However, we are delighted to have kept all strands of the programme running virtually, providing dedicated virtual learning resources and activities for hundreds of enrolled students.
Pre-GCSE Inspire Programme
A set of six digital classes was created specially for the Pre-GCSE Inspire Programme, centred on the overarching theme of ‘How to design a successful video game’. Each class approached the topic from the point of view of a different set of subjects, ranging from Computer Science and Medicine, to History and Linguistics. Each online class featured a number of competitions and challenges, from ‘Making your own video game’ to ‘The economics of Fortnite’. We were delighted to award a total of 29 prizes to entrants from the Pre-GCSE cohort, with winners coming from 15 different schools in the London boroughs of Ealing and Harrow.
A selection of prize-winning entries from all six classes can be viewed on Inspire Digital.
Despite the suspension of the programme of Year 12 twilight sessions in March, we have been pleased to create a set of dedicated Virtual Twilight Sessions for Inspire Digital, on both the STEM and Humanities strands of the programme. Highlights of the Year 12 programme this term have included St John’s DPhil student Alex Manby discussing ‘statelessness and unrepresented nations’ in his talk on Politics & Geography for the Humanities strand, and Maria Ruesseler shedding light on optical illusions in her talk on Neuroscience for the STEM strand.
One of the highlights of our year at St John’s is our Inspire Programme summer schools. This year, even though we could not host summer schools in College, we were excited to run all of our summer schools virtually, via Inspire Digital.
In August, we co-ordinated our first ever Virtual Summer Schools for students enrolled on our Pre-GCSE, Year 11 and Year 12 Inspire Programmes. In addition to virtual tours of St John’s College and Oxford’s museums, including the chance to contribute to an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Natural History, each year group had its own schedule of academic tasters and tasks across various subjects to complete.
Year 9s on the Pre-GCSE Inspire Programme explored the power of volcanoes through articles across various subjects provided by St John’s tutors, and then competed in a series of competitions based on this material. Students also completed a series of virtual debating activities courtesy of the UK Parliament Learning Team, and tackled some backyard biodiversity and conservation tasks.
Students on the Year 11 Inspire Programme chose between a series of STEM or Humanities academic taster sessions, produced by St John’s tutors and students. We also announced the winners of the final Year 11 competition which took place in June, to cap off a year of fantastic work submitted by our cohort of nearly 600 participants.
Participants on the Year 12 Inspire Programme competed in a series of daily competitions: Humanities students considered a series of ‘Big Questions’ from the Oxplore portal, while STEM students tackled a series of maths puzzles, with video solutions provided by Dr Tom Crawford. In addition to these daily challenges, our students also worked throughout the week on an academic poster project tackling the complex topic of fake news.
Competitions ran throughout the week, with nearly 100 entries received, and 25 prizes awarded to our participants. A selection of prize-winning entries from our Year 9s and Year 12s can be viewed on Inspire Digital.
In times like these, reliable and easy-to-find digital resources are more important than ever. We have therefore been delighted to significantly expand our collection of online resources on Inspire Digital. Our dedicated pages for teachers and for students bring together free resources from across Oxford and from further afield, giving students in all year groups opportunities to explore their subjects in greater depth, and assisting teachers with the provision of high-quality extra-curricular materials.
South Coast Outreach Consortium
We are excited to be joining with three other Oxford colleges to form the South Coast Outreach Consortium. Together with St Hilda’s, St Hugh’s and Somerville Colleges, St John’s will work collaboratively to support schools across an area stretching from Kent to the Isle of Wight, with St John’s formally taking on responsibility for outreach in Southampton, in addition to our current link areas of Brighton & Hove and East & West Sussex. An ‘Oxford for South Coast’ website, covering all of the Consortium’s activities across the region, is expected to launch shortly.
We have been pleased to continue our involvement in ‘Lumina’, a course for Year 12 students considering applying to Oxbridge, in our link boroughs in London. Lumina is a collaboration between Harrow School and Twyford C of E Academies Trust, supported by John Lyon’s Charity. Our very own Dr Sandra Campbell and Sarah Jones delivered a virtual lecture on the Oxford admissions process, followed by a one-hour open Q&A session for 250 pupils. This was then followed by virtual lectures, mock tutorials and mock interviews delivered by St John’s graduate students, for a selection of pupils interested in applying to study Medicine or the Sciences.