A NEW learning centre in Blackbird Leys could help 900 young people each year get into university.

The centre, run by educational charity IntoUniversity and Oxford University, will provide specific programmes aimed at children needing extra help.

Seven local schools have already entered a partnership with the centre, which opened in November, including Windale Primary School, Pegasus Primary School, Orchard Meadow Primary School and Rose Hill Primary School along with secondary schools The Oxford Academy, Oxford Spires and Cheney School.

The charity’s founder Hugh Rayment Pickard said it identifies areas in the UK that could benefit from the scheme.

New figures released by the Department for Education showed just one per cent of pupils at state schools in Oxfordshire go on to study at Oxford or Cambridge.

That means just 42 pupils from Oxfordshire’s state schools were successful ‘Oxbridge’ applicants in the 2011/12 school year, the most recent with available figures.

The centre, formerly a community centre, will cost an estimated £1m over five years with the funds to be split equally between Oxford University and the national charity.

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The centre will also provide programmes which develop a child’s passion in a particular subject, interview skills training and mentoring from Christ Church college students.

Christ Church will be providing half of the university’s share of the funding and helping run the programme.

Oxford University pro-vice chancellor Sally Manstone said: “These children live in a city with one of the world’s leading universities but it’s not something they feel they can be part of. This scheme can allow that to be a pathway for them. It might not necessarily be Oxford but it’s raising the aspiration.”

The charity typically takes on primary schools with at least 30 per cent of pupils entitled to free school meals.

Children from secondary schools will be able to get help if certain criteria are reached.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “There is enormous talent in our less well-off communities and too often children get the message that the best opportunities in life aren’t going to be for them.

“As well as encouraging those who can to go to university, it’s a question of helping all young people find the ways in which they can excel, get good jobs and rewarding lives.”

Ellise Watson, 11, from Windale Primary School has been on the scheme since November.

She said: “It’s helped with my behaviour and learning skills. It’s nice to have them around if I have any problems.”

Oxford South East centre Manager Sarah-Jane Kinley said: “It’s about normalising the aspiration of going to university and making it clear if they want to do it, it is attainable."

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