High performing programme returns and grows

A unique partnership between East Lothian Council and two Oxford colleges is to run for a second year, with more young people being awarded a place for the new sessions. 

Last year, 12 third year pupils from across East Lothian’s six secondary schools travelled to Oxford for a week of learning and social activities at Exeter College. The young people took part in seminars, tutorials and museum visits, experiencing all that the world-class institution had to offer.  All costs – including travel and accommodation – were fully-funded by Exeter College and East Lothian Council.

I am feeling incredibly thrilled to have the experience and opportunity.

Maja Thomson, North Berwick High School

Following the success of the 2019 experience, the 2020 experience has expanded with St Benet’s Hall also joining the programme. In addition to the new students, last year’s students (now S5) have been invited to return for a follow-up experience, all of which will be delivered online between 14 and 17 September. The Clydeside Project, an initiative run by Scottish undergraduates at Oxford, has committed to supporting any young people who have participated with support for future applications to the University.

Young people in S3 from across the county’s six secondaries were invited to apply to take part in the programme. Applicants undertook a rigorous series of assessments with 12 spaces being awarded to the highest performing young people. As a residential experience is not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions, the programme has moved online. The young people have all been able to choose their tutorials from maths and English literature, to theology, ancient history, and social sciences.

Claudia Logan, a returning student from North Berwick High School, said: “This was an amazing thing to experience at such a young age. I’m glad we were able to have this opportunity given to us – not just to make great friends and work with the best professors – but also experience uni life at one of the best universities”

Maja Thomson, who attends North Berwick High School and is part of the new group, said: “I am feeling incredibly thrilled to have the experience and opportunity. I think it will be a challenging yet worthwhile in terms of our academic success and confidence levels in public speech.” Kayla McKinnie from Musselburgh Grammar added: “It’s the type of thing you never think you’re going to be able to do, and regardless of the circumstances, it’s an amazing opportunity.”

Cabinet member for Education and Children’s Services, Councillor Shamin Akhtar, said: “I’m really pleased to see the partnership between East Lothian Council and University of Oxford continue and flourish. The educational and social opportunities from taking part are significant, and it’s to the credit of everyone involved that they have been able to continue to deliver this important and unique programme. I’d also like to congratulate both groups of young people for securing a space in a rigorous and competitive assessment process.”

Andrew Small, DPhil student in History at Exeter College and co-ordinator for the programme, said: “We have always wanted the programme to deepen the relationship between East Lothian and Oxford even in the present situation. Everyone has pulled together to make sure that happens. I would personally like to thank Neil Craik-Collins in East Lothian, Bernard Gowers (St Benet’s Hall) and Conall Mac Niochaill (Exeter College) for all their help and support for the project”

Professor Sir Rick Trainor, Rector of Exeter College, said: “Exeter College Oxford is delighted to be participating in the East Lothian Oxford programme for a second year.  My colleagues and I hugely enjoyed the 2019 programme, and we are confident that the 2020 programme, although necessarily online in current circumstances, will prove a useful learning experience both for Oxford and for the pupils from East Lothian.”

This year St Benet's Hall, Oxford, has also joined the project. Professor Richard Cooper, Master of St Benet's, said: "We're delighted that it was possible to continue this project online this year, and look forward to welcoming participants virtually to St Benet's."

Published: Thursday, 17th September 2020