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Access Officer Diary: Shropshire 15th-17th April 2013

As part of the Cambridge University Area Links scheme, each College is responsible for developing good relationships with local schools in particular areas. Two of St John’s areas are Shropshire and Telford.

I spent three days in Shropshire and Telford from the 15th-17th April 2013 visiting three different schools, speaking to around 80 students and 20 parents. My trip started with a train journey to Bishop’s Castle, continued up the Welsh border to Oswestry, and finished in Telford before returning to Cambridge.

On the first day I visited The Community College in Bishop’s Castle, a small school of around 500 students. There I spoke to twenty of their Year 10 and 11 ‘High Flyers’ with the purpose of encouraging the students to aim high with their Higher Education choices and to provide information about how to prepare for applications to top Universities.  The session covered topics such as choosing a course and the Russell Group, before moving onto Cambridge University specifically. We discussed the academic and social aspects of life in Cambridge as well as the benefits of the collegiate structure of the University ending with a brief overview of the application process. It is hoped that a follow-up visit to Cambridge will take place in September this year.

Upon departure from Bishop’s Castle I travelled to Gobowen, near Oswestry, to visit The Marches School. I had previously met some of The Marches’ students at Moreton Hall Careers Fair in February, so I was delighted to see some familiar faces again. Thirty Year 10 and 11 students attended a similar ‘Introduction to University’ presentation, which included some specifics of the unique supervision system in Cambridge, as well as the many social opportunities available. Students were particularly keen to ask about A-Level options, as the school is opening a new sixth form in September this year.

In the evening I ran a short presentation followed by a Q&A session for parents of students at The Marches focussing on the application process and dispelling the myths surrounding Cambridge University.

I was greatly impressed with the facilities school has to offer its students; and its ambitious plans for the future. I found the staff to be very supportive of their students’ aspirations and the pupils themselves inquisitive and enthusiastic. The school is bringing a small group of Year 10 students to visit St John’s later this term, followed by a larger party next academic year.

Claire Buckle, Head of Sixth Form at The Marches School commented, “We are very grateful to Cambridge University for taking the time to come and visit the school and provide our students with really helpful and aspirational information. We were delighted so many parents attended in the evening, as it was a great opportunity to ask questions and gather valuable information from such a prestigious university. We are very excited about this developing relationship between The Marches and Cambridge University and the benefits it will bring our students. We are currently in the process of arranging a number of visits to the university for current students and our new sixth formers, who will begin their post-16 education in September. We hope to encourage other secondary schools to get involved in future events and look forward to hosting the next Cambridge activity in Shropshire.”

On day two, I visited Thomas Telford School, a school I had previously visited in November to talk to Year 12 about Oxford and Cambridge. On this occasion I ran a session for early UCAS applicants (those applying to Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine or Veterinary Medicine) on personal statements. We discussed how they are used as well as basic structure and content. The students used the rest of the time to ask questions and note down any wider reading, extra-curricular activities, etc. they had done. The students were focused and had many insightful questions to ask about course and College choice.

Before starting my job as St John’s College Access Officer in September 2012, I lived in Cumbria for two years and am originally from Lancashire, but I had never previously visited Shropshire. I have found it to be a beautiful county, full of welcoming people, and I very much look forward to returning there in the future to visit more schools.