Nurturing aspirations for Oxbridge

Teaching History article

By Lucy Hemsley, published 4th January 2017

University preparation

An exploration of the impact of university preparation classes on sixth-form historians

Frustrated by the low numbers of students from her comprehensive state school who expressed any interest in applying to Oxford or Cambridge to study history, Lucy Hemsley set out to explore ways in which she might both inspire and equip her students to do so. Her careful analysis of the explicit requirements of the two universities suggested  that A-level specifications and assessment criteria alone did not promote a sufficiently challenging or engaging vision of high-level historical thinking. Hemsley’s subsequent struggle to find out what kinds of  ‘super-curricular’ provision were offered by other schools inspired her not only to develop her own programme of university preparation classes but to share the details of the scheme and her evaluation of its impact in order to encourage more explicit  collaboration between schools in the interests of broadening students’ experience, promoting their independence and  enriching their sense of historical perspective.

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