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A grand day out

Tom Grand (2012, History) and his group of studentsTom Grand (2012, History) brought a group of students from the Discovery Academy in Stoke-on-Trent to College earlier this year for a school trip with a serious message.

“All their phones came out as soon as they arrived,” explains Tom Grand, a maths teacher at the Academy. “They were really excited to see students in gowns on the way here… and all the bikes! They’ve taken so many photos.”

Tom had been planning the visit to Univ since he started teaching in Stoke last year, and was relieved that neither the two and a half hour bus drive, nor the dreary April weather had dampened the students’ enthusiasm.

“It’s really important to me that young people have a chance to come here,” he explains. “I want them to stop seeing it as a mythical place; to realise that there are people here just like them. I want them to know that if they’re ambitious and they work hard enough, they can study here, just like I did.

“I remember being one of six who went on a school trip to Oxford [as a student of Carisbroke College],” he explains. “Only three out of the six applied to Oxbridge: all three of us had parents with professional backgrounds.

“The other three, whose parents didn’t have that background, were put off. They said they didn’t feel they were clever enough. In the end, they did better than me in their exams, but by then they’d left things too late. That’s why I think it’s so important to remove the stereotypes and preconceptions of Oxford early on.

“I want them to talk to the students, to normalise the experience. I want them to see them eating in the Hall, to see them sitting around in normal clothes, to make it seem normal.

“Even in the short time they’ve been at College, I’ve seen their confidence grow; they’ve really enjoyed talking to the students. My hope is that when they’re choosing a university in the future they’ll remember today and think: ‘I visited Univ and I would fit in there.’”

Maybe our visitors from Stoke will bring their students to College, and share the story of the first time they came to Univ and how it opened up a new world of opportunity. With advocates like Tom, alongside new initiatives like Univ’s Opportunity Programme, we can make that more likely.

You can read the full article in The Martlet.

Published: 12 December 2017

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