I wrote before the summer break about the fantastic summer school opportunity offered to a selected group of our new year 7 students thanks to the generosity of the University of Hertfordshire Widening Access team. During the final week of the summer break 37 nervous children arrived at Thomas Alleyne’s ready for their first summer school. The first day was spent at school carrying out a range of activities to get to know each other and staff. Team building on the field involved students passing fellow team members through a giant spider’s web without touching the strands, and lunch was prepared by the students themselves in our catering room. By the end of the day the group were talking confidently to each other and to staff.
The next two days were spent working with the team from the university. We visited the excellent STEM Discovery Space in the morning and created bags decorated with exploding paint. Students were privileged to see the Mars Rover prototypes and hear about the exciting work being carried out by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage. From there students travelled to the University of Hertfordshire. We were privileged to hear from a range of academics about the work they were undertaking. We visited an inflatable planetarium and played sports on the University pitches. Students were all provided with their own flats for the night and after a disco and karaoke they were superbly looked after by the undergraduate volunteers from the university. The following morning the team ran an excellent session breaking down myths about university and sharing experiences of student life. The students then worked on presentations that they rehearsed in a lecture hall before returning to school to present to their parents. It was a superbly organised few days.
Alongside the excellent organisation, there were a huge range of benefits from the summer school. This group of students have now already stayed away from home (for many it was their first time), visited a university, challenged myths about higher education, received achievement certificates and worked in teams to deliver presentations to a range of audiences. They arrived at school this week already knowing other students and key staff who had worked with them for the three days. The opportunity for school staff to step back and observe the students interacting with the adults from the university, and to see how they coped on a residential visit, has given us valuable information to make sure we are supporting students effectively from day one. We already worked behind the scenes to change a couple of form groups based on our observations!
I’d like to give a huge thank you to the staff involved in the summer school, and particularly the team from University of Hertfordshire for enabling this to happen. We are already booking in the dates for next year!