North Oxfordshire Academy residential at Reading University, July 2019


At the end of the first week of July 2019, Study Higher hosted a two-day residential for Year 9 pupils. The aim was to provide a fun and immersive introduction to university environs, student life, and university research.

It was a packed schedule for the two days, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather at the venue—the resplendently verdant campus of the University of Reading. Thirty pupils arrived along with their three school teachers on the Thursday morning. We got them stuck straight into it: after a quick introduction to myself, Edit Leibhart (Study Higher Liaison Officer at Reading), and our five awesome Student Ambassadors (current students at the uni), we got the kids straight out into the fields for team building activities put on by WiseUp. Working in small groups they had to complete as many mind bending physical tasks as they could in the time. It was sweltering out there, so while they were doing that, I was loading up on as many bottles of water as I could carry at the on-campus shop! The teambuilding was a really great start to the event, not only because it’s lots of fun (it is!) and a good way of getting them to stretch their legs after an hour-and-a-half on a coach, but because we wanted them to start thinking a bit laterally and considering how they could work successfully in teams to achieve defined goals.

This was skills growth and framing was extra-important for this event, because we were going to be getting them started on CREST Bronze Awards. CREST is a “scheme that inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers”, and we would be getting them started thinking about how to define and refine project goals and working towards producing a science investigation. A lot of them are doing these projects in groups and their communication and team skills were already showing through. There were some fantastic ideas coming out as well, and the initiative continued to support them back at school after the summer to complete and submit their projects

To give them some tastes of the sorts of scientific enquiry conducted at universities, they were given some demonstrations from the Meteorology department, and given tours of the Ure Museum, which comprises the fourth largest collection of Greek pottery in the UK.

But it wasn’t just about science and research; we wanted them to come away with a great idea of what university life is like. That’s the sort of thing a residential can provide like no other event, in part because they were staying in student halls on campus! The pupils also got to use the same food outlets used by the uni students, to see and use a range of lecture theatres, seminar rooms, and IT suites, and to explore campus through tours given by the Student Ambassadors. At the end of the second day, they had a Big Higher Education Quiz, with their answers given through electronic clickers for instant feedback, and got to question the Student Ambassadors whom they’d been getting to know for the previous two days.

The Year 9s also answered some questions using their clickers about what they had learnt and how they felt about university and Higher Education. The responses showed that at the end of the two days almost all of them had a high estimation of their understanding of the benefits of going into higher education (93% rating themselves 4 or 5 out of 5), and that the majority were feeling motivated to continue studying after school (80%). They also reported that they had felt that they’d learnt a good spread of skills, including time management, teamwork, communication, decision-making, and problem-solving skills, as well as having learned about university life, the skills and qualifications needed to succeed, and information about financial support for HE.

At the end, as they left each pupil received a little favour box topped with graduation mortarboard and tassel, and filled with some Celebrations sweets. What better way of closing out their university experience!