High-flying sports and science students from three local Wyre Forest and Hagley schools got their very own academic event thanks to Oriel College, Oxford – with an Olympic twist.

The Year 9 and 10 students from Baxter College, Kidderminster, Stourport High School and Haybridge High School, Hagley, took part in an Olympics-themed overnight visit to Oxford University’s Oriel College as part of an outreach event aimed at attracting more students from non-selective and non-fee-paying schools in the area.

The fifteen local students and accompanying teachers joined a group of 50 from the county who attended the ‘Orielympics: Thinking about sport, learning about university’ event at the College, whose UK recruitment outreach ‘patch’ includes Worcestershire, Dudley and Wolverhampton. The students took part in sessions delivered by Oxford academics and current undergraduates acting as volunteer Student Ambassadors. The sessions included looking at controversial events in the Olympics’ history, investigating the various factors potentially influencing a nation’s medal tally, the physiology of sporting performance and the scientific testing of performance-enhancing drugs. They also examined some of the live insects in the Oxford Museum of Natural History’s collection as part of an investigation into the competitive spirit in nature.

The visit culminated in a presentation to a panel of academic judges and a prize-giving ceremony.

Apart from the academic sessions, the tutors and undergraduate volunteers gave the students a behind-the-scenes look at life in an Oxford college, answering questions about applying and studying at the university.

Francesca Slattery, Outreach Officer for Oriel college says: “It is all about introducing bright young students to what life is like living and studying at Oxford, challenging them intellectually and inspiring them about the pay-offs of hard-work, motivation and dedication, and teamwork. We hope students leave thinking about the subjects that inspire them so that as many doors as possible will be open to them in the future.”

The ContinU Trust consortium of High Schools, of which Haybridge, Baxter College and Stourport High are members, organized a joint coach to Oxford so that students and staff could share their experiences and focus on the event. The Trust’s ‘Opening Doors’ collaborative enrichment coordinator, Michael Conroy-Harris said ”Our schools are great at finding amazing enrichment opportunities for their students – if we can help from a practical point of view to make their lives easier, then that’s great. The more the merrier!”

Students who took part certainly seem to have given the event a 'golden' thumbs-up. Baxter Student Anna Burley, aged 15 said “I found the trip extremely rewarding and informative, giving us the chance to make new friends and learn that university isn’t that scary!!”. 15 year old Lauren Millichip from Stourport High School added " I loved the trip to Oxford University primarily because it gave me an insight to what student life would be like there and what I would need to do in order to apply. Applying to Oxford is something that I definitely want to aim for!"

Opening Doors supports a wide variety of projects and events for students in the Wyre Forest and Hagley areas aimed at promoting their eventual progression into professions as well as building a wide range of personal skills such as self-confidence and presentation skills to help realise aspirations.