Walton Academy has been fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in a programme called Oxford Next Generation, run by Oxford University, in order to encourage students from lower university participation rates to consider higher education at aspirational universities. Our current group has been part of the programme for the past three years, and has worked closely alongside Oxford growing valuable skills and developing a greater understanding of the general application process. Due to Covid, our first meeting was virtual. This provided us with an insight to university life and an introduction to the programme.

In 2021, the group of selected students visited Oxford for the first time. Here we went on a tour of the university campus and Magdalen College, which was the first time the majority of us had ever toured a university. We had the opportunity to get advice from students who had come from a similar area and background as us. We then were invited back to Oxford in October 2022, where we had the privilege of touring St Edmund’s College (commonly known as Teddy Hall). Here we interviewed current students where we got to ask questions regarding the application process and university life. During this visit, we also were given a project to further develop our university level skills, entitled the X Behind the Y project. This allowed us to evolve our independent research skills and explore a topic we had a personal interest in, such as the ‘psychology behind art’ and ‘where does gender concept come from?’ They were all marked and critiqued by Oxford students, and the winning title, ‘The Quantum Mechanics behind Wormholes’, by Sophia K, won a £50 prize. This project, and the feedback given, was invaluable and has helped to expand our knowledge and given us an insight to a university experience.

Our group’s next step regarding the programme is a two day residential trip to the University. Our first day will consist of getting first hand advice into the application process and preparation required for Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. The second day will be tailored to us, and will be a supported open day where we will be introduced to the Oxford professors and subject specialists. We are all so grateful for this opportunity because it has given us new aspirations and made us feel as if we have the potential to get into the top universities.

Our teachers, Mrs Sharp and Mrs Storr, have been a great support throughout the programme, arranging the trips and ensuring everyone was accommodated. We would all like to thank them for their dedication and hard work.

By Freya S and Harriet B, post 16 students.