Summer school gives state teachers ‘valuable’ insight into Oxford admissions process



Nearly 40 state school teachers from across the UK visited Oxford to take part in a residential summer school aimed at shedding light on the University’s admissions process.

The two-day Oxford-Sutton Trust Teacher Summer School, taking place at Oxford for the second year, equips teachers with information, guidance and ideas that will help pupils who are thinking of applying to study at Oxford.

Coming mostly from schools with a limited history of engagement with Oxford, the teachers were given presentations on various aspects of the application and admissions process, as well as subject taster sessions delivered by Oxford academics in humanities and social sciences disciplines.

The conference, one of four Teacher Summer Schools supported by educational charity the Sutton Trust in partnership with HSBC, took place on 5 and 6 July.

Claire Ungley is a teacher at Dyke House College Sixth Form in Hartlepool who runs the school’s ‘Aspirations’ programme. She said: ‘I come from a school where going to university isn’t something that pupils naturally aspire to. We’ve never sent a student to Oxford, although this year we have our first offer-holder.

‘I came to the summer school to get some advice on how best to guide the students at my school, and also to get a feel for the university myself. It was really valuable to attend the taster sessions and find out what’s expected of undergraduates at Oxford, and to think about how we might be able to bridge the gap between A-level and university.’

She added: ‘There seems to be a perception in the north-east that Oxford isn’t somewhere people go. I think it’s really important to tackle that mentality because if those messages are passed on to the students then it could reinforce their own doubts, when we actually want to be encouraging them.

‘There’s recent research from the Sutton Trust which found that 40% of teachers wouldn’t advise their students to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. But we want everyone at our school to be supportive of our most talented students in getting into universities like Oxford. It feels like a special place here, where people can do great things.’

“>Video of Hartlepool teacher Claire on her summer school experience

Charlotte Sutton is head of history at Bennett Memorial School in Tunbridge Wells and a former master’s and PGCE student at Oxford. She said: ‘I was really lucky to have a teacher who had a big influence on me, and I want to give students the same experience – the idea that Oxford isn’t for a certain type of person, it’s for a broad range of people, and that’s why it’s so exciting to come here.

‘Attending the summer school is a great way to get an insight into somewhere that can seem off-limits and like a different world. It breaks down those barriers, which is really important because the university is as strong as it is because of the diverse range of people who go there.

‘What I’ll take away is the need to give students the enthusiasm and motivation to look more broadly beyond what they’re learning for their exams, because Oxford is looking for people with a love of knowledge and a real interest in their subject.’

Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University, said: ‘We were delighted to be able to host the Oxford-Sutton Trust Teacher Summer School for the second year. The aim of the conference is to work with teachers to stretch and challenge their most able students, and to equip them with the best possible guidance on the admissions process at a selective university like Oxford.

‘As a former teacher myself who recognises the demands placed on their time, I hope the teachers found our summer school enjoyable, engaging and informative, and that we might be welcoming some of their students to Oxford in the coming years.’

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: ‘We all know how important teachers are in guiding their students’ choices about where to go to university. But, as our research has shown, there are lots of misconceptions about the Oxbridge admissions process. We’re delighted to be working with Oxford to demystify the process. The Teacher Summer Schools put teachers in the best possible position to support their pupils to make high-quality applications to top universities.’