BRIGHT students at two schools are getting special mentoring to nurture them into elite universities.
The Oxford Academy is joining up with John Mason School in Abingdon to give gifted students a university-style literature course, gearing them up for Oxbridge.
Chris Davies, acting deputy head at John Mason in Wootton Road, said: “We both got talking about how we have very able students who, through the mainstream curriculum, might not be challenged enough.
“We planned to get our brightest and best students to offer them something quite different. We want them to think about accessing the best courses later on.”
The Symposium course offers 20 students, 10 from each school, the chance to meet up for workshops run by academics and writers.
Anna Wilson, children’s author and Cambridge University graduate, kicked off the course on Thursday with a seminar on creative writing for the 12- to 13-year-olds.
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Alexander Clovis, who goes to Oxford Academy, said: “I really like how she took so much information from a children’s picture book.”
Eva Ponting, from John Mason School, said: “I really enjoy working with other people who get excited about the same things I do.”
The six fortnightly workshops build up to a dinner at Oxford University’s St Edmund Hall, where each pupil will present a dissertation written about their favourite topic covered in the seminars.
Mr Davies said: “All state schools have students that would rival anybody in private schools who should also be going to the best universities. It’s about starting them on that flightpath to something special.
“If a 12-year-old can talk about literary theory, that would light up an interview. The assumption is that good universities are just looking for A*s, but they want students to have a broader understanding and show enthusiasm. It will open doors.”
He said it is better to start pupils early rather than “rushing it at 17”, and hopes to roll the scheme out across all faculty areas.
Lou O’Hara, vice-principal at The Oxford Academy in Littlemore, said: “We want to give students the opportunity to experience different things. The children are very able and have a real passion for English.
“It’s about changing their mindset and raising aspirations, creating a sense of self-belief. They could walk past Oxford University and think “that could be me one day”.
“Hopefully it will trickle down and other students can get on board. It will do them the world of good on a social level to mix with children from another school.”