On the 19th May, a group of our students were invited to visit St. Anne’s College, Oxford University for an outreach day. This was the first time that any of these students were properly visiting a university, and they were seeing the University ranked Number 1 in the world. The students were made very welcome after their long bus journey and started the day with a session explaining what university is. Much was learned from this session and many questions were asked.
The students were then taken on a tour of the college grounds, where they energetically engaged with the whole environment and continued to question the helpful student ambassadors giving the tour. The students helped take photos of the grounds, including the variety of plants, and the various buildings. They visited the campus library and found the silent function that we weren’t previously sure that they had. They then visited the Common Room where they played a good game of table tennis with some current Oxford students.
Our students had received compliments for their enthusiasm and good manners before walking in to lunch where they enjoyed as much curry and desert as they could eat. In the refectory, our students morphed into young adults, discussing varied topics with maturity and interacting with passing students and professors.
After lunch, we walked towards our planned artefact handling session at the Pitt Rivers Museum. We had to pass through the University Museum of Natural History and had time to stop. The students loved the fact that many of the exhibits could be touched and were cuddling bears and putting their heads inside a T-Rex mouth.
We eventually reached the part of the building we were aiming for, and our artefact handling session. Here we were introduced to a variety of artefacts from the indigenous people of Haida Gwaii, Canada. Our students were led in a session where they interpreted the objects like Archaeologists or Anthropologists. They excelled in this. Using knowledge collected from sources as diverse as Spongebob Squarepants and their Humanities lessons at the Skills Hub, they were able to answer questions beyond the capabilities expected for students of their age. The session leader was impressed!
After a day where our students embraced everything and engaged with higher education for the first time, they were chatting, smiling and singing the whole way home.
Hannah, who looked after us for the day, said “It was a fantastic experience for us to welcome some of the young people from the Skills Hub, Hillingdon and their staff. The students brought great energy and enthusiasm to their visit to St Anne’s College, Oxford, asking insightful questions and showing a genuine interest in the College and University.
Working with a smaller group meant that it was a pleasure to get to know the students more as individuals throughout the day. We were really delighted to see their clear interest and excitement for some of the University’s collections at the Natural History Museum – as well as their excellent appetites over lunch! We were especially impressed by the students’ ability to adapt so quickly to a very new and unfamiliar environment and interact so confidently with some of our own students.
It is very important to us that we work with a wide range of students who can then make more informed decisions about their future choices – whatever they may be. And we hope that by participating in this kind of visit, more young people go away with the message that places like Oxford are open and welcome to all. We wish them all the best with their next steps, and hope that they had a memorable day!”