Outreach programme gets Hackney students into Oxford

Pic: Nataraj Metz

Five students from the Raising Aspirations programme in Hackney have received conditional offers from Oxford University.

Asta Diabate, Mahmoud Ally, Le My Dang, Saorise Purtill-Coaxall and Jake Morgan-Stead all participated in an academic outreach programme based out of BSix Brooke House Sixth Form College.

Whilst several hundred students from the area took part, only 60 students had the opportunity to pair with an Oxbridge college.

Dr Peter Claus, Access Fellow and Senior Research Fellow in History at Pembroke College, Oxford, who has led the Oxford branch of the project since 2007, explained that this was the first year the scheme has been open to students across the entire borough.

Claus said: “The spike this year reflects the talent in all Hackney schools and colleges and the commitment of both Pembroke and Oxford to find and nurture that talent.”

According to Oxford University statistics, six students from state schools in Hackney, out of the 212 state school students from Greater London, were accepted for entry to Oxford in 2012.

Ed Durbin is the coordinator for Raising Aspirations at BSix. He said that in the past the programme has, on average, sent one student to an Oxford college a year but that this is the first time they have seen “multiple successes”.

“It is unsurprising that students who take the programme seriously find themselves well prepared for application to the country’s top universities.”

In July 2011, Hackney was named one of the 10 lowest percentage areas accepted to Oxbridge schools by the Sutton Trust.

The five Hackney students came from four schools: BSix, Clapton Girl’s Academy, Jack Petchey Academy, and Stoke Newington Sixth Form.

The Degrees of Success statistics put out by the Trust reports: “State pupils in Reading, Hammersmith and Fulham, Sutton and Buckinghamshire are more than 50 times as likely to be accepted at Oxford or Cambridge than pupils in Hackney”.

When asked about efforts Oxford was making to reach out to students in East London, a spokesperson for the university responded: “Oxford is committed to working closely with schools and colleges to ensure everyone with the ability and potential to succeed here aims high and considers applying, particularly those students with the ability and potential to succeed who might need extra encouragement to push themselves to aim for the top.”

Ken Warman, Principal at BSix, stressed the significance of these recent university offers: “It sends out a message to all young people in East London and the inner-city in general. It is possible to aim for the very best and achieve it. They will open the doors for so many more if they study hard and flourish academically at Oxford.”

But not everyone agrees with the effectiveness of Raising Aspirations programmes. In April 2012, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released three reports challenging these types of programmes as the best ways to improve “the educational attainment gap”. The foundation’s reports  promote “engaging parents in their children’s learning” as a viable alternative.

Pembroke College extended their outreach programme this year to include South Cheshire and Manchester, considering its scheme to have been a “successful” model. The five students from Hackney are due to start at Oxford on completion of their A Levels this year.

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