Tuesday, April 4th, 2017.

Excelsior’s Oxbridge-bound students with Anna Wallbanks and Teach First’s Dawn Prior

Hand-picked college students from Excelsior Academy have seized the chance of a lifetime to sample life at two of the world’s most prestigious universities.

The five talented teenagers from the academy’s sixth form college will spend four-day residentials during Easter at either Cambridge or Oxford universities as part of the Teach First Futures programme giving young people a taste of university life.

Courtney Todd, Earika Karki, Chiamaka Jecco-Obi, Hanifah Ali and Rebecca Cather were selected because of their academic prowess to become temporary students at Oxford’s Balliol and Somerville colleges or Cambridge’s Corpus Christi and St Catharine’s colleges.

Teach First’s Futures programme 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.

The Teach First organisation’s goal is to end educational inequality, partnering with schools, universities, charities and businesses who share their vision that no child’s success should be limited by their background.

Dawn Prior, Teach First Access Officer, said: “Futures is a progression scheme for very bright young people to help them make informed and ambitious choices while in sixth form.

“The students will be at either Oxford or Cambridge university for four days, fully immersed in university life.

“They will stay in university student halls of residence when they are there and they will complete academic work at university level whilst they are there because we know that they have the academic capabilities to do that.

“They will then complete different skills workshops, employability and careers sessions; we have a formal dinner for them and they will complete group challenges when they are there.

“We see a lot of increase of confidence in students which is really wonderful to see.

“When I was there last year, on the first day everyone is really nervous and quiet and shy, but by the last day everyone is absolutely full of it and they have had a wonderful time.”

Earika, 18, who will attend Cambridge University, arrived at Excelsior Academy just 18 months ago from Nepal speaking virtually no English, but excelled in her GCSEs last summer.

“I want to join this programme because some people believe that children whose parents didn’t go to university don’t have any potential to go to university,” she said.

“My parents would like me to go to Oxford or Cambridge. Even if I don’t get a place there I’d like to go to a Russell Group university like Durham.

“I was really happy getting this opportunity and I’d like to study law if I can.”

Chiamaka, 17, who will attend Oxford University, said: “I think it’s going to be cool but I think I’ll be a bit scared.

“There will be new stuff and half of my friends won’t be there. I know that it is a very prestigious university and I was apprehensive about applying there, thinking ‘do I have high enough grades’ as it’s very intimidating.

“But it will be an experience. I want to go to university as I want to do medicine. Newcastle University is the one I had thought of.”

Excelsior Academy UCAS Advisor/Progress Tutor Anna Wallbanks, said: “We looked for students with the highest grades and why they would benefit from the programme.

“The cohort we have when you talk to them say ‘I could never go there, I could never get those grades’ – the majority stay local as they may be a bit scared or not know enough about life outside the North East, so it’s a great opportunity for them.

“We have every confidence in their abilities. They will take so much from being away from home and being in such a prestigious university.”