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News > School News > Widening Access to Highly-Selective Universities event

Widening Access to Highly-Selective Universities event

On Wednesday 26th February Dame Esther Rantzen and Head Master of Eton College Simon Henderson led a panel debate on Widening Access to Highly-Selective Universities.
27 Feb 2020
School News
Charles Fillingham initiated the panel debate, which was held at St Cyprian's Church.

Four schools collaborated in creating the event which represented the interests of over 56,000 young people. The schools involved were All Saints Catholic College (state), Francis Holland, Regent’s Park (independent), King Solomon Academy (state) and The St Marylebone CE School (state). Headmaster Charles Fillingham initiated the panel debate following his offer of four 100% transformational Sixth Form bursaries to students at All Saints Catholic College (one of the co-hosting schools). "We are interested in meritocratic admissions, there are a lot of deserving candidates from a range of schools." said Charles Fillingham.

The first panel discussion considered the national picture regarding applications to highly-selective universities and discussed how young people from less-privileged backgrounds experience university. Leaders of both state and independent schools were joined by prominent voices  such as Oxford University's Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Martin Williams and Cambridge University's Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Graham Virgo. We were also joined by Professor David Gillborn from Birmingham University who discussed his research findings into institutionalised racism in British schools and society. Founder of Target Oxbridge and Oxford graduate Naomi Kellman also joined the debate along with CEO and Founder of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Andrew Fairbairn. 

The second panel included headteachers from schools with experience and expertise in supporting applications to top academic universities. Headteachers from the London Academy of Excellence, Westminster School, St Paul's Girls' School, King Soloman Academy, Harris Westminster Sixth Form and The St Marylebone CE School.

Both panels agreed that schools need to work closely with schools and third sector organisations to create real change. Partnerships between state and independent schools need to be meaningful, offering mentorship and high quality interview experience in addition to help with developing soft skills. The panellists also discussed the importance of early intervention and the need for social mobility to be considered much earlier in a child's life. Kat Pugh, Headteacher of St Marylebone School said “If they’ve not grown up surrounded by the polish and confidence exuded by those from more privileged backgrounds, it’s a question of how we, as schools, help them to demonstrate their insight and potential.”

  Widening Access to Highly-Selective Universities

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