Aspirations Project for students in years 9-11 at Ricards Lodge High School and the other secondary schools in the Wimbledon ISSP
Every year 10 Year 9 students on Free School Meals who will be first-generation university students are chosen from each of our partner schools to experience a range of sessions designed to raise their academic and vocational aspirations. The first session is an opportunity for them to get to know each other and for their parents to find out about the project. In Years 9 and 10 they attend masterclasses, theatre visits including a backstage tour, science lectures and a day at King’s College London. They learn debating skills and participate in a debate before visiting the Palace of Westminster, and enjoy a creative writing session. In Year 11 they visit Royal Holloway University and experience our annual course of GCSE sessions, followed by a workshop on coping with exam stress. They attend a university applications day in Year 12.
The aim of the project is to raise the academic and vocational aspirations of students of less privileged backgrounds who may feel that university is not for them. All seven state schools in the Wimbledon Partnership have a good number of students of this kind. The critical factors for success are the support of all seven schools, a member of staff representing the project in each school who is able to accompany the students on trips or arrange for this and the willingness of the students’ parents to support their children’s participation. The booklets accompanying each session also need to be regularly updated and delivered well in advance.
The opportunity was identified by the executive committee of the Wimbledon ISSP, chaired by Heather McKissack, in 2008. The project was created in 2009 and has been running ever since.
The project is financed by King’s College School and its partner schools, each of which provides a member of staff to supervise the students and accompany the sessions. Transport and admissions costs to venues such as the National Theatre etc are funded by King’s, which also publishes the booklets which accompany each session.
The project is regularly reviewed by the representatives of the seven schools. Each booklet contains a questionnaire for the students to fill in and these are assessed by the representatives. The effectiveness of the project is also assessed by each school through the students’ GCSE and A level results and their university applications. Feedback is provided at the termly meetings of the Wimbledon Partnership.
Mixed, years 9-12.
The project runs for three years and sessions are roughly twice a term. In Year 11 the students attend a course of 10 weekly GCSE revision sessions followed by a session on coping with exam stress.