Oxford Spires Academy Year 9 Residential


My highlight of this year was definitely designing and running my first ever residential at Oxford Brookes University for 32 Year 9 students from Oxford Spires Academy. Notably, 100% of the students were from our target wards, which was a great achievement! Being my first residential, I entered it with the underlying fear of a hundred hypothetical scenarios occurring. Thankfully, the students really enjoyed and were enthusiastically engaged with the residential activities, and it went off without a hitch. I was very lucky to have the support of a fantastic team of undergraduate ambassadors from Brookes – it was great to see the students making the most of this opportunity by asking the ambassadors lots of questions to better understand the real ins-and-outs of university life.

When they arrived, students first took part in our Introduction to Higher Education session, including an interactive quiz with handsets which saw them get very competitive! After lunch in Brookes’ Terrace Restaurant, students had several hours in the glorious sunshine taking part in fun team-building games with WiseUp. This involved utilising a range of skills, both active and analytical, but above all else developed their teamwork skills by getting them to solve problems in groups. After checking in, unpacking, and exploring their accommodation at Clive Booth Halls with their flatmates, we wrapped up the first day with a fun pizza, film and board game night.

After breakfast on the second day, students chose between ambassador-led engineering or philosophy taster sessions, to try out a completely new and unfamiliar subject. This was followed by an ambassador Q&A session, and a chance for them to form teams and create their own university society – the winning group designed a society for turning films into comic books! At the end of the day, they had a final motivational talk from Louise Hunt, Paralympic athlete and wheelchair tennis player, followed by a graduation ceremony with their proud family members. All students received a certificate, and had the chance to toss their mortarboards into the air! Additionally, we recognised five ‘Residential Stars’ for demonstrating particularly excellent engagement with the activities on offer.

To measure the impact of the residential we carried out pre- and post-surveys, with the following results at the end of the residential:

  • 32% of students said they were more able to imagine themselves going to university in the future (with the other 68% remaining as confident as they were at the beginning).
  • Students had a much better understanding of the benefits of higher education, with a 40% increase in students who were able to list three distinct benefits.
  • An amazing 63% of students could name 1-3 more societies they would be interested in joining, including more unusual ones like Anime, Rock Climbing, and Assassins. They hadn’t heard of these previously – probably the result of some enlightening discussions with the ambassadors!

Furthermore, when asked before the residential what they hoped to gain, students’ answers generally revolved around having an experience of university life, gaining greater knowledge about the courses on offer, and being more sure about what they want to do in the future. When asked at the end of the residential what they felt they had gained, students’ comments included:

“That I would like to come to uni and it’s given me a taster of what it would be like.”

“Confidence and understanding of different courses. I’m way more excited about higher education!”

“Knowledge about how to be on the right path for who I want to be in the future.”

“An increased understanding of what university life will be like and an insight into what the halls are like. I enjoyed the Philosophy taster.”

…and added to that, I’d happily jump on the opportunity to run another residential now!

Stephanie Atherton, Higher Education Liaison Officer