‘Amazing’ Oxford University initiative aims to inspire the city’s youngsters (From The Oxford Times)

AN ‘AMAZING’ initiative to inspire the city’s youngsters to apply for university has been praised by teachers.

‘Oxford for Oxford’ has been helping primary and secondary schools in areas where the lowest number of pupils tend to go into higher education, including Blackbird Leys, Rose Hill and Cowley.

It is run by Oxford University and its colleges and invites teachers and their pupils to go on exciting field trips, where they can meet students and academics and learn about science and culture.

Anna Caughey, who created the programme, said the main aim was to give young people a chance to see what university is really like – particularly if no one in their family had gone before.

It has so far organised more than 25 school visits and interacted with more than 2,500 children through events across the city, Ms Caughey said.

She added: “Oxford is a fantastic place to live and we’re so lucky to be able to benefit from what the university has to offer.

“Everyone who lives here should have those opportunities and you see how absolutely vital those connections are when you see our students running around museums with excited primary school children, looking at dinosaurs together, or mathematicians explaining their research to children and parents.”

At one event attended by university mathematicians, she added, the team ‘actually had children queuing to learn about maths’, with scientists also attending community fairs to show children simple chemistry.

As part of Oxford for Oxford, schools can also take part in regular activities such as ‘museum clubs’, where pupils explore the university’s world-renowned museums with the help of undergraduates, as well as specially-arranged trips.

Holly Laceby, head of English at Tyndale Community School in Cowley, said she and her pupils were invited to visit Grade-I listed Magdalen College to learn about author CS Lewis, who penned the Chronicles of Narnia series.

Lewis was a fellow at the college and an original copy of his first Narnia manuscript is kept in its library, shown to pupils when they visited.

Ms Laceby said: “We were walked around by students who had volunteered to help and then given a talk in the library.

“The children were just gobsmacked by the whole experience. They were coming back to school saying ‘I want to go to university’, which is just amazing.

“For them to look up to people who went to university – especially when many of them won’t have any role models who went – has a huge impact on their personal goals.

“As a school the programme has given us amazing opportunities.”

And Oxford Academy teacher Katie Braham said her year eight and nine pupils were given a tour of Trinity College.

She added: “They spent time with undergraduates and had time to chat to them and ask questions about things like the food and what the bedrooms are like – real life parts about being a student.

“Then we went with them to a Live Friday event at the Ashmolean Museum which was fantastic.

“Some of our pupils have never been to the city centre before and might not ever have considered going to university, so it’s great for them to be able to have that experience.

“One boy said to me ‘miss, the buildings are really posh but all the students are just normal people’. Learning that is what it’s all about.”

Another public event linked to Oxford for Oxford is due to take place later this year, Ms Caughey said.

The Curiosity Carnival will celebrate academic research for the public, supported by the European Commission.

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