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‘Seren’ students – our state-educated stars of the future

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In 2022, 484 learners from state schools in Wales applied to study at Oxford or Cambridge Universities. 87 received offers, compared with 65 the previous year, a 33% rise and part of a rising trajectory.

The increase in applications to top universities and top university schools in Wales, the UK and abroad has been significant in recent years. That success has been powerfully influenced by our ‘Seren Academy’, which helps more able learners from across Wales from any background, economic status or personal situation, to fulfil their academic potential.

Funded by Welsh Government, ‘Seren’ works with partners to provide an extensive programme that goes beyond the curriculum, helping learners widen their horizons, and develop a passion for their chosen field of study at no cost to the learner. It is open to years 8 to 13.

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, visiting a Seren Summer School

One of the most exciting and life-changing activities run by ‘Seren’ are the residential summer schools, which give learners a sense of what studying and life will be like at university.  The schools also aim to develop learners’ critical thinking and academic skills to support their GCSE and A level studies. They’re underway now, and Seren would like to share some great examples below:

Cardiff University School of Medicine summer school

In July, 55 year 12 learners from across Wales had first-hand experience of a career in medicine and what it’s like to be a medical student, by participating in case-based learning and communication skills workshops based on year one medical student teaching.

The highlight of the summer school was ‘Hope Hospital’, where the university set up wards for learners to manage where they had to assess and treat ‘patients’ (actors with ‘symptoms’) with the support of clinical staff and medical students.

Learner comments: ‘all of the activities were much more engaging and immersive than I ever thought they would be’…’ one of the male actors genuinely made me tear up’.

Aberystwyth University humanities and social science summer school

In August, 80 year 11 learners spent three days exploring the key challenges the world is currently facing such as climate change and wars in Europe and other continents. Seren learners were challenged to think critically about the issues we face globally and the possible solutions through creative session in areas such as law, theatre, international politics and many more.

Learner comment: ‘Learning about topics outside of anything I’ve ever done in the school curriculum’…’definitely meeting people from all over the country! It’s the closest I’ve been to interacting and networking with others outside my area, and to meet people who all share the same cultural experience was amazing.’

Aberystwyth University veterinary science summer school

In July, 40 future vets got the unique opportunity to experience life as a veterinary student, taking part in practical sessions with animals, and learning clinical skills and anatomy at Wales’ only veterinary school. They spent time at the university’s Trawsgoed farm equine centre and a local veterinary surgery.

Learner feedback: ‘Finding out what the course is like from students that actually study there has given me a more realistic picture about university’…’ widened my horizons and has opened me up to further exploring the many paths of my future career’.

Jesus College, Oxford summer school

This August, 75 year 12 learners will get a taste of what studying at Oxford is really like, including tutorials, seminars and lectures that place an emphasis on academic engagement, and aim to equip participants with the information, resources, inspiration and motivation to make competitive applications to the UK’s leading universities. Many previous Jesus College attendees are now studying in the US at leading institutions including Yale, Harvard, and Stanford.

Last year’s cohort at Jesus College

New College, Oxford summer School

This August, 23 year 11 learners will spend five days studying at New College Oxford.  They will learn from world-renowned experts, develop critical thinking skills and advanced approaches to research, writing, and analysis that will support their GCE studies and help prepare them for their future educational journey.

Learner feedback: One of the most enjoyable and informative experiences I’ve ever had’…’I feel motivated to follow my passion and being at the summer school has made my goals feel achievable.’

Seren would like to thank its partners in schools, colleges, universities and local authorities for their help and support.

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