A new access collaboration between Jesus College and alumna Clare Williams (2005, English) aims to widen participation to underrepresented and disadvantaged young people in south London.
The Masterclass pilot programme, which launched on May 6th 2021, invites academically-talented Year 8 school students from ethnic minority backgrounds in three south east London schools to participate in a series of masterclasses that aim to equip them with the skills to pursue and succeed in higher education, and to raise their levels of aspiration. It also aims to create a community of students, families, teachers and Oxford staff committed to supporting the most-able ethnic minority students to achieve their potential.
The Masterclass has been developed by Clare Williams (below). Following the completion of her undergraduate degree in English at Jesus, Clare worked as an English teacher and senior leader in various south-east London schools, before embarking on postgraduate study. She is now studying for an MA in Culture, Diaspora and Ethnicity at Birkbeck, University of London.
She says, “Throughout my teaching career, and since leaving the classroom, I have worked with Jesus College in supporting students in South East London schools to aspire to higher education. The Masterclass programme is designed to go one step further in providing long term support and challenge for underrepresented students early on in their academic career, rather than a one-off opportunities”.
The programme includes critical thinking workshops with Jesus Fellows, and special trips to London and Oxford. The pilot programme group of 22 school students has already started on a stretching syllabus, with an opening session on contemporary Caribbean literature from Dr Will Ghosh, Career Development Fellow in English.
Will says, “It was so exciting to meet the students virtually, and to discuss Caribbean poetry with them. I’m so grateful to Clare and Matt for organising the programme, and to the teachers from all three schools who have given so much of their time. We’re all really looking forward to welcoming the students to Oxford in person.”
In July, the group will be invited to spend a day in College to experience life as an Oxford student, and meet inspirational Honorary Fellow Tom Ilube CBE. Tom, who was educated in London and Nigeria, is a technology entrepreneur and educational philanthropist. He is founder and Chair of the African Gifted Foundation, a UK education charity focused on science and technology in Africa, which recently launched the African Science Academy – the continent’s first all-girls science and maths school. He also founded the Hammersmith Academy, a state secondary school in west London, which has become one of the UK’s most innovative technology schools.
The Masterclass group will also experience a personalised tour of the Ashmolean Museum.
Access Fellow Dr Matthew Williams says, “We are delighted to have launched the Critical Thinking Masterclass in collaboration with Clare. The programme contributes to our access strategy of widening participation to underrepresented and disadvantaged young people. It also realises our ambition of working with younger children, in an effort to make universities in general, and Oxford in particular, more accessible from an earlier age.”