Year 10 students identified as having the potential to thrive at university have taken part in a third residential as part of the United Access programme.
United Access is run by United Learning in partnership with Accelerate and Access Foundation (AAF), Caterham Schools, and Woldingham School for young people with clear academic potential but who would be the first generation in their family to go to university. The four-year programme follows students from the beginning of Year 9 through their university application process to their school graduation at the end of Year 13.
The ‘leadership’ themed summer residential brought the United Access group back together with their university mentors for another week of skills development workshops, lectures and confidence building exercises. Hosted from 24 to 29 June at Woldingham School, a partner independent school, the aim of the week was to equip students with the skills to become university ambassadors back in their own schools.
The previous residential was held at Caterham School, another programme partner, where students explored the theme of ‘communication’ through a range of drama activities, subject lectures, trips and games. Following this, they were asked to create an idea for a unique educational app which they presented at last week’s summer residential.
During the week, students explored ideas of leadership through topics like philosophy, politics, music, media, sports and maths. These deeper subject knowledge classes were interspersed with public speaking sessions, film night and a range of sports with pupils from Woldingham School. There were also specific sessions focused on university access; one afternoon, Target Oxbridge staff ran an interactive session for students, followed by a ‘university panel’ so that they could ask as many questions as they liked. Another guest lecturer was Lieutenant David Boyles from the Ministry of Defence who explored different leadership styles with the group through a series of exciting command task activities.
The residential included another university visit – this time to Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. There, students were taken on a tour by one of the United Access mentors, who is currently a student of Natural Sciences at the College. They also got the chance to hear from the College Outreach Officer about the sort of educational experience they could expect there and what makes a strong candidate.
On Friday, students each presented on what they had learnt, including what leadership meant to them, and their favourite activities of the week. They also outlined the project they plan to undertake back at school before the next residential – this included starting a housing system and delivering assemblies to younger years groups. Teachers from the schools involved in the programme attended to watch the presentations.
One student from The Totteridge Academy said after the week:
“I have enjoyed being in a different environment and the theme of leadership for the week was interesting. I have learnt about it in more depth, and all the qualities and styles that makes a leader.”
A student from Lambeth Academy added:
“It was interesting being able to see a university and to try new sports and activities. I learnt information on Russell Group universities and also more about A Level options.”
Each day, students had 1:1 time with their mentors to catch up on their progress and discuss their current research topics. Their mentors are current undergraduates at top universities; one of the newest volunteers is Ellie Allday, a former Kettering Buccleuch Academy student, who graduated from United Learning’s University Fellowship programme in 2017.
Martina Montecchiarini, Project Lead for United Access at United Learning, said:
“With this residential, we wanted to give students the chance to challenge themselves, deepen their subject knowledge and develop their own leadership styles. Despite being an intensive week, with a very full timetable, we were impressed by students’ continued enthusiasm, engagement and creativity. We are very grateful for the support of all our programme partners and excellent guest speakers, but in particular for the wonderful welcome we received from our hosts at Woldingham School.”
Anthony Fahey, Senior teacher at Caterham School, who put together the programme for the residential, said:
“The students responded very well to new subjects such as Philosophy and Politics – always willing to engage in discussions and learning tasks. This residential also allowed them to see a different university, building on their experience at KCL at Easter, and for the first time start to formulate plans for their A level choices and beyond in a coherent and informed way. The cohort goes from strength to strength, pulling together and operating in a new venue without a hitch. Credit must go to Woldingham for their faultless hospitality and inspirational teaching.”
Margaret Giblin, Senior Deputy Head at Woldingham School
“We were delighted to host the summer residential at Woldingham. The students made a wonderful impression on our staff with their commitment to the range of activities and their willingness to tackle new concepts.
“Woldingham is an outward facing school and our partnership in the United Access programme rests neatly with our educational philosophy, where intellectual value, personal growth and a sense of community are at the very core. The balance of intellectual pursuit with holistic development is essential for young people in education today. We look forward to welcoming the students back next year.”