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New initiative set to raise the university aspirations of sixth form students in Bedfordshire

A project which aims to increase the number of young people from across Bedfordshire securing places at some of the country’s leading universities has launched.

Raising Sixth Form Aspirations will improve the chances of students going to Oxbridge or Russell Group universities, as well as gaining entry to other top Medicine and Veterinary Science courses and Higher-Level Degree Apprenticeships.

The three-year project is the brainchild of Professor Lee Hubbard, Head of Academia at Samuel Whitbread Academy in Clifton, which is part of the Bedfordshire Schools Trust (BEST).

The project is sponsored by the Connolly Foundation – which will be giving grants of £3,000 per year to schools – and partner institutions include the Oxford and Cambridge Universities, as well as the University of Bedfordshire, Cranfield University and MK:U.

Further support and resources will be provided by BEST and the Meridian Trust.

Prof Lee Hubbard of Samuel Whitbread Academy

Prof Hubbard will be leading on the project alongside Yvonne Ashby, Head of Careers at the Wootton Academy Trust, and Nigel Croft, Education Consultant and formerly Headteacher of Redborne Upper School.

Prof Hubbard said: “The project is based on my work over the last three years at Samuel Whitbread, which has seen an 81 per cent increase in the number of students applying to Russell Group universities.

“The aim is to help to raise the aspirations of our young people, improve their personal statements and interview skills, as well as their communication, organisation and problem-solving techniques.”

Twelve Bedfordshire schools have currently signed up to be part of the ground-breaking programme, with a combined total of over 3,000 sixth form students, including:

  • Samuel Whitbread Academy
  • Wootton Upper School and Kimberley College
  • Biddenham International School and Sports College
  • Cedars Upper School, Leighton Buzzard
  • Harlington Upper School
  • Redborne Upper School and Community College, Ampthill
  • Sandy Secondary School
  • Sharnbrook Academy
  • Vandyke Upper School, Leighton Buzzard
  • Queensbury Academy, Dunstable
  • Stratton Upper School, Biggleswade
  • Mark Rutherford School, Bedford

Education Consultant Nigel Croft said: “This is an exciting and truly inspirational project, involving schools from right across the whole of the county, with the potential to lift the aspirations of thousands of students in Bedfordshire.”

Biddenham Principal David Bailey said: “The importance of ensuring our students have all the skills and capabilities at the highest level cannot be overstressed.”

The project was officially launched at a special event at the University of Bedfordshire earlier this month, attended by headteachers and sixth form leaders from participating schools. Work will get under way in earnest in the new academic year in September.

The university itself will be working closely with schools to ensure students have a clear route to attending the institution, should they wish to study for a degree while staying close to home here in Bedfordshire.