Balliol’s outreach activities are making an impact

Wednesday 21 February 2024

This year 90 students who attended Balliol access events or programmes have received offers from Oxford University, 15 of them from Balliol and 75 from other colleges. More than two-thirds of state school applicants to Balliol in the 2023 admissions round came from schools that received Balliol outreach support during the 20222023 academic year.

These record numbers show the growing impact of Balliol’s outreach work. Below is a round-up of some recent developments in the programme.

Monday Maths

Last year (the 2022/2023 academic year) saw the introduction of our third sustained-contact programme, Monday Maths, designed for Year 12 students (aged 1617) who want to pursue a Maths-based degree course at a competitive university. The pilot programme resulted in 86% of participants applying to Oxbridge, an outcome that justified the further development of the programme. Renamed Fibonacci, it now includes a residential summer school at Balliol, during which participants take part in a tutorial and receive advice on the Oxford admissions process. We are also proud to have made an offer to one of last year’s participants. Read more about the three access programmes for year 12 students here.

Try Before You Buy Days

Also new last year was the introduction of Try Before You Buy Days, whereby selected unsuccessful applicants to UNIQ — Oxford University’s access programme for UK state school students — attended at day at Balliol, during which they took part in a tutorial. Of the 71 students who attended these days, 48 subsequently made applications to Oxford, 10 of whom received an offer. Participants fed back that the tutorial experience was what gave them the confidence to make an application.

Working with schools

Demand from schools to visit Balliol has returned to pre-pandemic levels and we run a busy programme of visits. During the academic year 20222023 Balliol’s Outreach team worked with 326 schools. The subject-specific Taster Days continued, with a success rate (i.e. percentage of attendees receiving Oxbridge offers) consistently higher than the Oxford University average.

Teacher support

Balliol’s Gregson Scholarships are demonstrating impact in the schools that they support, which they do by enabling a lead teacher in each selected school (characterised by high numbers of disadvantaged students) to develop academic resources and experiences to encourage academically able students to achieve their potential. One of the schools, the Thetford Academy, has received its first ever offer from Oxford. Two of the schools that benefited from this funding in the previous three years have also been successful in gaining offers.

As part of our continuing efforts to support teachers of science, we are now offering bespoke professional development opportunities for teachers of biology, chemistry and physics in state schools. Teachers will be paired with graduate students to help them update subject knowledge, discover new teaching resources and find out about current research.

Discovery Programme

Discovery seminar session at Barnwell School, showing school students sitting at tables facing a screenon the wall.
A Discovery seminar at Barnwell School, Hertfordshire (photo by Jackie Johnson).

The Discovery Programme, our provision for Year 10 GCSE students (aged 1415) in state schools, is an academic enrichment programme offering online workshops from different humanities, science and social science subjects, with the aim of motivating students to explore new areas of knowledge and develop their own academic interests and passions. Last year, workshops were provided on a variety of topics, including art history, astronomy, economics, mathematical modelling and philosophy. 10 schools with a total of 150 students from schools in our link regions joined the workshops live each week. A further 13 schools watched the sessions afterwards, using the recordings and workbooks, and since the recordings a further 23 schools have requested the recordings.

Following an overwhelming response from schools, the programme was further expanded this year, by creating two options for state schools anywhere: they can either join live and take part in the workshops, bringing 15 students with a teacher, or they can download the recording to use with a workbook. Apply to join the Discovery programme here.

Insight Talks

A new series for 2024 has been a series of online Insight Talks for post-16 students with an interest in science: Year 12 (aged 1617) students who are studying science A Levels or other science qualifications. Passionate, motivated KS4 pupils (1415) looking to challenge themselves academically were also invited to attend. Taught by Oxford University postgraduate students, who give the audience an insight into their particular research specialism, the talks have enjoyed audiences of up to 500 students. Anyone who missed them can enjoy the recordings on Balliol’s YouTube channel.

Teaching opportunities for graduates

Many of the outreach programmes and events provide teaching opportunities for Balliol’s graduate students. More than 20 Balliol graduates were involved in our sustained contact programmes and other events last year. Training in planning a lesson and devising age-appropriate learning activities is provided for any graduate who wants to develop an outreach session. Ed Grayson (Balliol 2020), who took part in the Floreat humanities access programme, gained a place to read History at Balliol as an undergraduate and is now taking an MSt in History, will be teaching on the Floreat access programme this year.

If you would like to support Balliol’s Outreach work, please make your gift to Outreach today.