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Working to widen participation

  • 20 December 2018

It has been a busy Michaelmas Term at Gonville & Caius College, with around 68 schools visiting the College and taking part in our widening participation events.

Since starting the position of Schools Liaison Officer in October, Rosie Costello has been out visiting several schools in our link areas, including St Albans, Norwich, Bexley and Lewisham, and has presented at coordinated events for the whole of Norfolk.

Year 12 students in Lewisham, Norwich, Great Yarmouth, and at a couple of schools in Hertfordshire and Bexley took part in several interview workshops. Rosie has also been visiting younger year groups, from year 9 to year 11, giving advice on choosing GCSEs or A-levels, and providing advice on applying to Russell Group universities, and more specifically Oxbridge.

Closer to home, the college hosted The Brilliant Club’s Autumn Launch event, as well as many schools who came to Gonville & Caius for the day. These day visits typically involve a couple of informative presentations, a Q&A and tour of college with current undergraduates, and a free lunch in the Old Courts dining hall. We often begin with a myth-busting session, explaining what Cambridge is actually like, and many students find themselves pleasantly surprised! After attending one of these visits, one student commented: ‘now I know that it is not impossible to get into, and that normal people from state schools of all races are able to get in’. Another student from a different school said: ‘It (Cambridge) is full of normal, hardworking, ambitious people’.

The schools that came to visit were from all over our link areas, including Walthamstow, Buntingford, Bishop’s Stortford and Barnet. Gonville & Caius post-graduate students and fellows were kind enough to give taster lectures at some of these visits. Dr Lewis Owen is a Research Fellow at the college, and he gave an exciting talk on material science for Copthall School, a girls’ secondary school from Barnet. The talk was titled ‘From Atoms to Engines’ and focused on metallurgy, exploring how and why some metals are more suitable for use inside a turbine engine than others.

Nathalie Holloway, a HSPS (Human, Social and Political Sciences) post-graduate student at Caius, also gave a fascinating talk on ‘Britishness’ and how it links to race, which included analysing the rhetoric that politicians use to discuss Brexit and the Windrush scandal. Students were very engaged by both talks and gained an insight into the range of subjects on offer at Cambridge. Several students commented that these visits had helped to raise their aspirations, with one saying ‘it (the visit) has motivated me to work hard towards the goal of attending Oxford or Cambridge.’ One teacher said: ‘This has been a truly brilliant day! Our students are returning to school well informed and motivated to achieve the requirements to apply to Oxbridge.’

Rosie has thoroughly enjoyed organising and hosting each visit, and meeting so many students from a range of places. She says ‘I welcome state schools in our link areas (and especially those who haven’t been in touch before) to contact me or fill out our online booking form if you’re interested in arranging a visit’.

She will continue to be busy over the next few months, as bookings have been made up until April. The next availability for school visits to Caius will be in July 2019. If you would like to request a school visit to Gonville & Caius you can fill out our Request a School Visit Form or if you would like to find out more, please feel free to contact Rosie (schools@cai.cam.ac.uk) directly. 

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