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Breaking down barriers and building skills

Alex Grant is passionate about equipping talented 14-18 year-old students in Bexhill and Hastings to make the best choices for their future – whether that is studying at a leading university or conservatoire, taking a higher-level apprenticeship, or training to be a teacher.

Alex is Programme Manager of the Hastings and Bexhill Scholars Programme – one of six programmes created by Villiers Park Educational Trust in collaboration with local partners. Trinity is one of those partners – on the Swindon Scholars Programme.

Alex and the Skills4Success session

This year five students from Villiers Park’s Scholars Programmes across the country have joined the Stonehouse Residential at Trinity this week – attended by a total of 44 16 year olds from backgrounds under-represented at leading UK universities.  The aim of the event is to offer guidance on A-level subject choices, information about the application process and the low down from current Trinity students on what it’s like to be study at Cambridge.

Alex runs the team building and Skills4Success sessions on the Residential to help students build those attributes vital for the workplace and university. ‘The aim is to break down any barriers early on through fun activities using Skills4Success so that the students are confident, independent and they are working as a team,’ he said.

Residential events at universities for Year 11s were vital he said.

It’s opportunities like this that don’t just give you a guided tour of the university or a college but give you the context, what it’s really like at that College and the opportunity to meet and engage with current students.

Participants are Year 11 going into Year 12 so if this has been a pivotal moment for them in the ‘could I, couldn’t I apply for Cambridge or Oxford’ the process of preparation will start this October and definitely by January. So it is very important to have summer schools for Year 11s – by Year 12 it could be too late.

Students on the Stonehouse Residential

This year teachers have joined their students on the Stonehouse Residential, which is the second event of its kind and the first at Trinity for 16 year olds.

The series is supported by a family foundation set up by alumnus Richard Stonehouse, who studied Maths at Trinity and was inspired by his and his brother’s educational opportunities – from a grammar school in the East Midlands in the 1950s and 1960s, they went onto Cambridge and Oxford respectively.

Students attending the Stonehouse Residential come from families without a history of higher education, those eligible for free school meals, students who have been in the care of a local authority or who have overcome major obstacles to flourish academically.

Team working in action

This year students have come from as far afield as Brixham, Havant, Buxton, Walthamstow, Warrington, South Gloucestershire, and the Isle of Wight. Trinity’s Schools Liaison Officers worked with schools with little or no history of sending students to Oxford or Cambridge, with each school bringing between five and seven students and an accompanying teacher to the residential, where there are sessions tailored for teachers in addition to subject taster sessions for students and teachers alike.

Ellie Wood, Schools Liaison Officer, said:

It’s particularly vital for us to engage with teachers who may not be familiar with the application process and other aspects of Cambridge, so we’re delighted to offer sessions for teachers this year, which we will hope will provide a longer term impact on the school.

Ellie speaks from experience. No pupil from her school had ever gone to Cambridge until Ellie went to Newnham to study Modern and Medieval Languages. Yate Academy is one of the schools participating in the Stonehouse Residential this year, with five of its students.

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