A GROUNDBREAKING project at the Oxford Academy may have completed its run on TV but staff say the real work is just beginning.

Over the past few months 12 students from Year 9 to Year 12 at the Sandy Lane secondary were paired up with older people from across Oxfordshire.

Headmaster Niall McWilliams said watching the pairs change and grow over a series of meetings, which were filmed and presented by celebrity chefs The Hairy Bikers for the BBC , was "one of the best things I have been involved in in all my years in education".

He said: "We were never involved in this as a TV project. We were involved because we believe in it, and we believe in the impact we can have in community.

"It takes a village to raise a child and I think the biggest benefit of this is that it doesn't matter if you're senior or junior, it's someone else taking a genuine interest in your life and being supportive.

"I don't think the teenagers and senior partners realised they would have so much in common."

A total of 12 pairs took part in the 'Old School' project, which aimed to foster a dialogue and shared experience across the generations.

Student Brendan Wall, 14, from Littlemore, said meeting his partner Jean Andrews, 84, for the first time had been "a bit awkward as I was very nervous".

But he added: "We played lots of games, some old-fashioned so Jean had to teach me the rules. We also talked about football. Old School has helped me to become more self-confident, especially when speaking to people."

Fellow participant and Greater Leys resident Marlon Oulai, 15, said his partner Vic Thorpe, 70, from Wheatley, had helped him attain a B in his English GCSE.

His partner said they planned to continue meeting, adding: "It has made me understand the youth of today. I had no idea how complex their lives could be."

Just as the project came to an end the Oxford Academy learnt it had secured £50,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to extend the project for future groups.

Mr McWilliams said the school had already been approached by others, both in the local area in Oxford and further afield, wanting to copy the model.

He said: "We are still calling it Old School. Everybody knows it as Old School and we are continuing to expand as we speak to make sure that this continues to be a success. We are delighted with it."

Anyone interested in taking apart in the next round of Old School is invited to a recruitment day at the Academy on Tuesday, June 21 between 10am and 2pm.