Each year our partner academies identify bright Year 9 students from backgrounds that are underrepresented at top universities in the UK. These students are given the opportunity to apply to be a part of our Academies Partnership Programme, a unique 4 year programme of support which aims to widen their horizons, support them through their GCSE and A-Levels, and ultimately help them to secure a place at a leading university.

The APP main interventions are in the form of two, one-week long residentials during the Easter and Summer holidays. At these residentials our students meet like-minded individuals from other academies and take part in a dynamic academic timetable which is designed both to reinforce existing subject knowledge and to challenge the students to go beyond the curriculum in pursuing new subjects or topic areas. Alongside the academic programme, students are exposed to a wide range of experiences and opinions through guest lectures, cultural activities and field trips. Our eldest cohort, for example, has heard from Lord Robert Winston and Olympic rower Sarah Winckless and been on trips to a symphony orchestra rehearsal and the Victoria and Albert Museum, amongst many others.

While these residentials form the backbone of the APP, our programme provides support to the students throughout the year. One day meet-up events occur in October and February each year to ensure that students remain engaged in the programme. Similarly, students are able to interact with one another and with their learning mentor throughout the year over our secure Virtual Learning Environment, provided by the Brightside Trust.

These learning mentors are undergraduate students from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge or Balliol College, Oxford who are each assigned between two and four students to mentor throughout their journey on the APP. The mentors are there to provide advice, support and encouragement to the APP students throughout the process, including at residentials where mentors frequently demonstrate their own enthusiasm for academia by teaching lessons inspired by their own university studies. For students, their mentor is a valuable source of knowledge and can act as somewhat of a role-model having recently achieved the student’s ultimate aim of a place at a top university.