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Chrysalis Summer Schools

The Chrysalis Summer Schools are an intensive week-long programme delivered by Highgate School for pupils in 32 partner state schools. The Summer Schools engage pupils in a set of dedicated activities including subject-specific tutorials delivered by subject experts from both Highgate and partner schools, sessions demystifying the process of making applications to selective universities, mock interview and admissions test provision and careers and employability guidance.

Two Chrysalis Summer Schools run concurrently during the last week of August. One has young people about to start Year 13 attend and the other, created due to popular demand from our partner schools, engages young people about to start Year 11.


The aim is to provide young people with the academic skills, knowledge and confidence to support their application to the most selective universities. As with all Chrysalis partnership teaching projects, we aim to encourage the study of the subjects pupils enjoy at the next level and to foster a sense of belonging to a wider academic community.

Each Chrysalis Summer School has specific aims influenced by the young people taking part.

The ‘Year 12’ Summer School (working with pupils about to start Year 13) aims to provide genuine undergraduate-style teaching in enriching tutorials. We believe that by leading academic sessions in this style, we will be able to support pupils as they decide what they would like to study at the next level.

The Year 12 timetable comprises dedicated activities designed to support talented young people make an application to university. Partner school pupils are given guidance and support by subject tutors through all stages of the process, from deciding what subject they should apply for, navigating UCAS, writing personal statements and preparing for admissions tests and interviews.

The ‘Year 10’ Summer School, which was designed following the success of the Year 12 Summer School and following feedback from partner schools that genuine enrichment for high-attaining pupils in Key Stage 4. Here, academic tutorials are designed to give tasters of A level subjects, particularly those that are not traditionally offered at GCSE. While these pupils are also take part in higher education activities, the main aim is to provide enrichment opportunities and support pupils as they decide which subjects to study at A level.

All pupils in both Summer Schools also participate in dedicated careers and employability provision, to encourage them to think about how they can develop their professional profiles while still at school.

Identified Need

The first Chrysalis Summer School was designed in response to a belief that while the education system in England serves many children well, some more able pupils are not always stretched and inspired to live up to their potential. This is a particularly acute issue for those more able students who come from socially less advantaged backgrounds.

One key issue that has been identified is the lack of subject specific support for those more able pupils who are considering applications to selective universities.

Selective universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and others in the Russell Group are under considerable pressure to become more inclusive. However, a wide gap remains in both educational attainment and access to selective universities between those who are more socially and economically advantaged and those who are less advantaged.

To close the gap requires supply and demand. Selective universities need to approach admissions differently, but schools and young people also need to increase their understanding of what selective universities need and to encourage all pupils to aspire to these universities. A key part of this is ensuring that pupils have the right academic skills and knowledge, the ability to articulate this and the capacity to make informed choices about their future.

Critical Factors for Success

A large body of teaching staff (up to 20 teachers for a programme engaging 200 pupils) available to act as subject tutors, lead subject tutorials and support pupils with their personal statements and interview support.

Numerous classrooms, laboratories, workshops, event spaces and dining facilities available during school summer holidays to host the various timetabled activities

Close relationships with a number of nearby state schools, including the ability to directly contact Heads, heads of year and subject leaders.

A core body of staff with a time allocation that allows for sustained recruitment and planning of the event in the months preceding the event.

Immediate Beneficiaries

Pupils in our partner schools benefit greatly from the intensive programme. For many, it is a rare opportunity for genuine enrichment and many attendees comment that they enjoy the challenge provided by the high-level content.

Highgate staff benefit from teaching a wide range of pupils from diverse backgrounds. Our teaching staff remark that designing enriching content with new challenges in mind allows them to develop practices that they can bring back into the classroom at Highgate.

Teaching staff in our partner schools often lead subject tutorials during the summer school. This offers an opportunity to share best practice with colleagues from other schools and benefit from teaching a range of diverse pupils from other schools.

Any collaborations with local community groups that take part in the programme and engage the young people strengthen the links between the school and the group and facilitate community outreach objectives.


The project came about in response to a wider sense that more subject-specific enrichment and university admissions support was required in order to address an imbalance in the provision in different educational settings. These wider findings were confirmed through consultations with schools in local boroughs

The first Chrysalis Summer School took place in August 2008, with the opportunity and programme identified, designed and implemented by the Community Partnerships Director, a member of senior staff responsible for community and partnership work


The vast majority of the programme uses school facilities, including a large number of classrooms, workshops, laboratories, assembly and event spaces and dining facilities. The programme may include collaborations with community groups and universities, to which trips may be organised.

Teaching staff act as subject tutors, deliver tutorials and are responsible for pupils during the day. Around 20 teachers are required to offer a diverse programme for around 200 pupils. Teachers are required for the length of the programme (around 3 days, potentially an entire week in the summer holiday) and may have to allocate additional time to plan these sessions.

A team of seven support staff are responsible for designing the programme and managing the recruitment of pupils. Work on this begins around six months before the event.

Teaching staff are offered remuneration at a standard rate for work during the holiday. The core support staff responsible for designing the programme and wider administration are salaried and do not receive remuneration for work outside of term-time. Since the majority of activities use school facilities, there are few additional costs. Any that do exist come largely from transport to and from external venues.


The School carries out substantial impact assessment after each Summer School has taken place.

In 2016, a report was commissioned to evaluate the impact of the Chrysalis Summer Schools between 2008 and 2015. The report was published by the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby and contained the following findings:

  • The overwhelming majority of participants (>80%) reported that they were satisfied with the Chrysalis Summer School and that they would recommend it to their friends
  • Students reported that it had informed their future direction (100%), helped them to make educational and career choices (90%)
  • In these 8 cohorts, the vast majority went on to secure places at the most selective universities.



In 2018, over 90% of the attendees said they would recommend the programme to their friends, that the subject tutorials informed their university applications and that they believed that the summer school had helped them feel more confident about applying to university.

Additional assessment should be incorporated into current systems to determine long-term impact. With many cohorts of summer school attendees now studying at or having graduated from university, the School must do more to complete longitudinal studies to determine long-term outcomes for Chrysalis pupils.

Pupil Involvement

The only pupils that take part are from partner state schools. Those in the Year 10 Summer School are 15 years old and those in the Year 12 Summer School are 17 years old.

There is a mix of gendersin all cohorts.


The event takes place each year in the last week of August.

The Summer Schools are going to continue for the foreseeable future.