Celebrating our first year in the north west with The Queen’s College, Oxford

In October 2022, The Queen’s College, University of Oxford, partnered with us to support our programme in four schools across the north west – two in Lancashire (Darwen Vale High School and Darwen Aldridge Community Academy) and two in Cumbria (Workington Academy and The Whitehaven Academy).

To celebrate the end of the first year of this programme, we were delighted to hold an event at Darwen Vale High School at the end of the summer term, where we were honoured to be joined by The Queen’s College, University of Oxford and Sir Rod Aldridge OBE, Chair of the Aldridge Foundation. During this celebration event, Sir Rod spoke to the students about entrepreneurship, self belief and seizing the opportunities offered at university before a number of students at Darwen Vale were recognised for their hard work and commitment in an informal awards ceremony.

The Lancashire Telegraph covered the event.

Unfortunately, we are very sorry to say goodbye to one of our school partners, Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, in Lancashire. The students on our programme benefited from amazing support which has resulted in some fantastic university offers for the Year 13s but alongside this the school has also faced very tough choices, given rising costs and other pressures beyond their control. Although they have valued the partnership with us, they have therefore decided to withdraw from the programme. The door is always open for them to re-join in the future.

The Lancashire programme will still be supporting the same number of students in the next academic year (2023/24) with Darwen Vale High School agreeing to a double programme of support.

Praveen is a Year 10 student at Darwen Vale High School who is enrolled on our programme. He told us: “My tutor asks what I need to focus on and then we work on that area. My mock grades have improved and the tutorials have helped me to be more confident on topics in literature. The mentoring has made me more aware of what I can do in the future and what my options are.” 

The Queen’s College, Oxford was originally founded for students from the north west and it has already helped The Access Project deliver tutoring and mentoring support to 80 students from Lancashire, in addition to a further 80 in Cumbria, in its first year. This support has included facilitating visits to the college, providing volunteer tutors and helping to resource the charity’s core programme.

Dr Lindsay Turnbull, Outreach Fellow from The Queen’s College, Oxford, said: It’s so exciting for the Queen’s College to be engaging in Darwen schools. We have deep roots in the north west and this partnership signals our continued commitment to the region. We’re determined that all students, no matter what their financial status, should have the same opportunity to study at the university of their choice, including the University of Oxford.”

Freddie Redfern, Assistant Principal (Personal Development) of Darwen Vale High School, added: “Darwen Vale has been lucky to partner with The Access Project this academic year. We have had so many success stories. The event was a great way to showcase the work that has been done throughout the year.” 

These success stories include:

  • Two students with a contextual Medicine offer (ABB) at the University of Lancaster.
  • A student with 4 out of 5 applications to Medicine accepted.
  • Cumbrian students choosing top third universities in the North rather than their nearer non-selective universities.
  • Lancashire students with firm offers from University of Cambridge (Natural Sciences), University of Edinburgh (Medicine) and Durham University (Physics with Astrophysics). 

Our younger students have also been making the most of the opportunities offered in the sector, including:

  • A Y12 student in Cumbria who has been accepted on the UNIQ programme and University of Durham’s support programme.
  • A Y12 student in Darwen completing the Sutton Trust Summer School this year.
  • Two Y12 students in Cumbria completing Realising Opportunities. Realising opportunities is a collaboration of leading research intensive universities to widen access. It is a structured programme of interventions designed to ensure they can be successful in their education and future career. Students apply for the opportunity through one of the universities.
  • A Y11 student in Cumbria accepted Christ College, Cambridge’s LPN summer school. LPN stands for low progression neighbourhood.  Each year Christ’s College, Cambridge works in collaboration with Sidney Sussex and Murray Edwards Colleges to run an August summer school for Year 11 in England/Wales aimed at students who live in areas of low participation to higher education.
  • Two Y11 students from Darwen accepted into Lancaster’s School of Mathematics for onward study.

In addition to the incredible support from the college, we must also thank the Queen’s community of students, Old Members and staff who offered tutorial support to 26 tutees on our programme through an amazing 463 hours of tutorials. 

One tutor told us: “I’ve absolutely loved the experience of tutoring this year and would definitely be interested in a new pairing in September. Many thanks to you and the team for helping make volunteering with The Access Project such a positive experience.”

Our Programme Director, Emily Price, summed up this first year in the north west: “As we reach the end of The Access Project’s first year in Darwen we are incredibly proud of the work we have done to start embedding our programme. We have laid the foundations for supporting 80 students to get the grades and the knowledge to support them in their journey to accessing top universities. We are excited for the future.”

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