Students and staff at Springwood High School in King's Lynn are celebrating after the January round of university place offers saw a record-high four pupils receive offers from Oxford and Cambridge.
This year, a record 11 pupils made it to the interview stage at the prestigious universities, and now four of those have received offers, two at each university.
Josh Ampomah and Lucy Henry have both been offered places at Keble College, Oxford, to read Engineering and Biology respectively, while Ezra Nwobodo has on offer from Emmanuel College Cambridge to read Mathematics, and Beth Norman hopes to be studying music at Newnham College Cambridge.
"Last year and the year before we sent two students to Oxbridge," said Jamie Warner-Lynn, deputy head of Springwood, which is part of the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which runs 11 schools in the borough.
"This year we had 11 interviews, which is unprecedented, resulting in four offers. In the year group below, we have 60 plus students who are interested in Oxbridge Pathways, so the momentum being generated by seeing what other pupils achieve is fantastic.”
Lucy, from Hunstanton, was previously at another of the Trust’s schools, Smithdon, before moving to Springwood for her A Levels. Her place is conditional on her achieving grades of A*AA in her subjects Biology, Chemistry and Maths.
“Lockdown meant I didn’t manage to visit Oxford to have a look round so I did an open application, for the university in general, rather than a specific college, but Keble is very close to the science buildings so it’s turned out very well,” she said.
“The interviews were done remotely, and before that the school gave us mock interviews, which were hugely helpful. My personal statement included things like my involvement with school music, but the interview was almost entirely academic, so they talked about my GCSE results a lot.”
Her long-term career aspirations are particularly topical. “I’d like to go into research – communicable diseases really interest me,” she said. “I know someone who took the same route as me and got into Oxford, which showed me it could be done, so it would be great to think I might inspire someone else to have a go.”
Potentially joining her at Keble is engineer Josh, from West Lynn, who has been at Springwood since Year 7, and whose approach was slightly more targeted. “Keble is close to the engineering department, and has the most engineering students of any college so it felt right for me,” he said.
“As well as my mock interview with the school’s former deputy head, and the head of science, I had an external mock interview with some people at Norfolk County Council. As I was the only person applying for engineering at Oxford, I wasn’t part of a group, as such, but whenever I needed help, the staff were always very helpful.”
Like Lucy, Josh has been set a top-grade challenge for his subjects, Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry, and he said he was attracted to the course because it was only in the final year that study became specialised, leaving his options open – and Oxford is the ideal base for his long-term career ambition.
“Something in the world of cars or Formula 1 really appeals to me, and lots of the teams are based around there,” he said.
Ezra, from Kings Lynn, faces an extra challenge with a separate system of Maths entrance exams known as STEP for his place at Cambridge, but said the school’s preparation had been “hugely helpful.”
“I’m quite an independent person but the staff are very helpful and they’ll always give you guidance so it’s great to have them available as a resource,” he said. “One of the people involved in my mock interview was a former teacher who had been part of the Oxford admissions team, so that made a big difference.”
A keen musician, Ezra is taking Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Music for A levels, and is keeping his options open.
“That’s one of the reasons I chose maths, it opens so many doors,” he said. “There was someone the year above me who got into Oxford to do Maths and Philosophy, so that made me think maybe I can do something similar. It’s nice to think that in these trying times, I might inspire someone else.”
Beth, from Docking, applied to and was given an interview by Corpus Christi College, but instead received an offer from Newnham.
“I just thought I’d give it a go,” she said. “A while back I was involved in a mentoring scheme with some Cambridge students so I thought maybe I could try and aspire to what they were doing.“
Previously a student at Alderman Peel school in Wells, she is studying English Literature, Music and Psychology, and has been given an offer based on grades of A*AA.
“I’m hoping this might set me up for a career in music therapy,” she said. “I went to a workshop on it in Year 10 and it really appealed to me.”
Mr Warner-Lynn said the school was incredibly proud of the students who had put themselves within touching distance of places at establishments that attracted the world’s finest minds.
“Springwood takes every opportunity to celebrate successes,” he said. “When younger students hear them talk like this, they see it really is an attainable possibility. We’re doing all we can to actively encourage all our students to be part of a culture of aspiration in the school.”
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