Friday, March 23rd, 2018.

Excelsior Academy students with Teach First

Talented students from Newcastle’s Excelsior Academy will get a taste of life at two of the world’s greatest universities as part of a programme to open up the best of higher education to more students.

The four hand-picked students from Excelsior’s sixth form college will spend four days over the Easter break staying in halls of residence at Oxford and Cambridge universities, fully immersed in student life.

Zainab Saeed, Tori Perkins, Lucy Ridley and Desmond Idehen Felix, all 17, will complete academic work at university level, attend skills workshops, employability and careers sessions, group challenges and attend a formal dinner.

All the students were selected for the TeachFirst Futures programme at Oxford and Cambridge universities based on their GCSE performance and projected A Level results.

They will also have a mentor appointed to work with them to draw up their university application – offering extra support if they decide they would like to apply for Oxbridge with their rigorous entrance processes.

The Futures programme works with groups of pupils under-represented in higher education who have the academic potential, but lack the confidence, knowledge or financial support to get into and stay at university.

It supports young people who don’t have family members who have been to university, or who live in areas where not many people get the chance to attend university.

Dawn Prior, TeachFirst North East Access Officer, said: “The whole point of the Futures programme is to raise aspirations and to get students making informed and ambitious choices.

“A lot of students have the ability but not the belief and many students choose to stay in the North East rather than look further afield or to more selective universities.

“We see a lot of increase of confidence in students when they are at Oxford and Cambridge which is really wonderful to see.”

Cambridge and Oxford are ranked the number one and two universities in the Sunday Times Good Universities Guide and consistently rate in the world’s top ten.

TeachFirst cites figures which show only 1 in 1,500 pupils from low income backgrounds make it to Oxbridge – the figure for privately educated pupils is 1 in 20.

Lucy, who is attending Oxford University during the Easter break, said: “I’m really, really excited to go to Oxford because it’s not just one of the best universities in England, but it is up in the top ten in the world.

“I’m studying oncology there, although I’m looking to go into biology or medicine. Looking at oncology when I’m at Oxford is so valuable and proves on your personal statement your dedication and what you can do.

“It puts you up there above other people, that you’ve taken the time in your holidays to go down to university to meet lecturers and students.”

Zainab, who will stay at Cambridge, has her sights set on studying there after her A Levels next summer, said: “I want to experience something new, meeting people that I don’t know and won’t know about me. I’m a bit nervous but I think this will be a very valuable experience.

“I’ve thought about doing medicine but I’m also interested in doing something in an industrial setting so trying physics might give me the chance to explore other worlds.”

Tori, who will also stay at Oxford, said: “It’s really good to put on my personal statement. I want to do computer science and being able to go to Oxford shows that I’m more valuable to a potential employer.”

Desmond, who is off to Oxford over the Easter break, is aiming to go to university after Excelsior, possibly to study medicine.

Anna Wallbanks, Excelsior UCAS Advisor/Progress Tutor, said: “We’ve chosen these four students based on their ability – and we know they have the maturity to take so much from becoming an Oxbridge student for four days.”

The Futures programme has a track record of helping 85% of its pupils into university, with almost half of those accepted into the most selective universities in the country.