Admissions and Outreach Blog

New SPC Foundation Schools Ambassadors

by Dan Pugh-Bevan on Sep 10, 2018

For a second year, St Peter's College will offer its innovative access initiative to schools across the UK, which focusses on providing professional development for teachers. Known as the St Peter’s College Foundation Schools Ambassador Project, the scheme sees the college link up with twelve secondary schools from the state sector across England.
Academics associated with St Peter’s, some of them professors, will work with twelve teachers throughout the year across a range of disciplines, helping them keep up to date with developments in their field. Participating schools will also gain a better understanding of the University admissions process, the college's own identity, and Oxford as a whole.

The teachers taking part in the scheme come from schools in Merseyside and north-east London (both St Peter's link regions), as well as from Bournemouth, Cambridgeshire, Derbeyshire, Hertfordshire, and King's Lynn. A full list of the participating schools and their Oxford mentors can be found at the bottom of this post.

2017 Schools Ambassador, Liam McMenamin, with Iona Richards

Martyn Barker, History teacher from King Edward VII Academy in King’s Lynn, said ‘I have not had the chance to go back to my subject area to build on my own knowledge for such a long time. I’ll be able to demonstrate my renewed passion for history to the pupils'. 

Maths teacher, Jonathan Lavelle, at Carmel College in St Helen’s, Merseyside said, 'The programme is an amazing opportunity for teachers to develop the knowledge and resources to bring the gap between A-level and degree level thinking. This should hopefully empower our students with a new passion and confidence in their chosen subjects'.

Reflecting on her participation in the project last year, Kalpana Tadikonda, Religious Studies teacher at King Edward VII Academy in Kings Lynn, said that the scheme was ‘great fun. I gave my mentor the new A Level syllabus, and between us we tackled the new areas of study that I was a little unsure about teaching. It was wonderful to be able to regularly stimulate my brain beyond the everyday of teaching'.

It is hoped that this pilot scheme will run for at least one more year beyond this academic year.

School Teacher Academic
Carmel College, Merseyside Jonathan Lavelle Prof Balazs Szendroi
Impington Village College, Cambridge Amy Brewer Prof Charles Monroe
The John Warner School, Herfordshire Alex Barnes Dr Thomas Brodie
King David High School, Merseyside Patrick Walton Dr Luke Jew
King Edward VII Academy, King’s Lynn Martyn Barker Dr Thomas Brodie
Sacred Heart Catholic College, Merseyside Laura Baker Dr Robert Pitkethly
St Mary Magdalene, Islington Mair Roberts Dr Thomas Marsden
The Bourne Academy, Bournemouth Laura Beardsall Dr Natalya Din-Kariuki
The Ecclesbourne School, Derbyshire Daniel Kebell Dr Luke Jew
Wirral Grammar School for Boys, Merseyside David Webb Prof Mark Moloney
Southgate School, Enfield TBC TBC


Striking the balance: making a very personal statement

by Dan Pugh-Bevan on Jul 14, 2018

Personal Statements: the phrase that at this time of year can sink the hearts of many sixth formers. Being asked to summarise your academic profile in 4000 characters (including spaces) is a daunting task. So I would like to offer some advice: 

1. Research course content (and that of related courses) using the 2019 Undergraduate Prospectus – does the course content on the right hand page really match your academic interests?

2. Take note of the statistics for interview/’successful’ on the left hand page of your selected course.

3. Identify whether there are any attributes that academics are looking for in successful applicants.

4. Match your own experiences from your academic life to the attributes you have identified. 

5. Turn your attribute-matching list into prose. Follow ‘PEE’ – Point, Evidence, Explain to ensure you are fleshing your personal statement out according to examples of your experiences and, crucially, what you have learned.

6. Most (65% to 80%) of your written statement should discuss your academic interests, attributes and experience.

7. That leaves space for you to talk about other things that you think universities should know about. At Oxford this section may not inform of our admissions decisions, but other universities may use this information when considering your application.


  • Quotes use up characters that aren’t your own words. They are also difficult to make work structurally in a short personal statement.
  • Don’t lie or exaggerate. You could be questioned in an interview about anything you write in a personal statement.


  • We want to know about your academic interests – saturate your personal statement with strong evidence of these.
  • ‘Wider reading’ means anything beyond school that has engaged you academically. It could be academic texts, ‘TED’ talks, lectures, radio programmes, television programmes, newspaper comment sections etc…
  • The Oxford ‘Very Short Introduction’ series can be a useful starting point for wider reading.
  • Try out some texts on the first year reading lists.
  • UCAS displays your personal statement as an unattractive blob of text without paragraph breaks. Make sure your writing style exhibits good linguistic ‘signposting’ to overcome the subsequent lack of paragraphing or indentation.
  • Try NOT to be one of these people.  
It is important to remember that there are several different elements that inform our admissions decisions. The personal statement is just one part of a much bigger whole. Please don’t allow the personal statement to overtake your life: strike a balance between writing a strong introduction to your academic personality, and preparing for the admissions tests and interviews.
More on those soon!

Farewell from the Project Administrator

by Marianne Talbot on Apr 11, 2018

Welcome to my last update as Project Administrator.
My year of leading the project is almost up, and it has flown by. I leave St Peter’s knowing that the project has got off to a really good start, with nine schools working with their mentors to reignite teachers’ passions for their subjects and enhance their knowledge and understanding of admissions at Oxford.
When I set the project up in Spring 2017, I thought it would be tricky to recruit schools – teachers are amongst the busiest people on the planet after all. However, I was pleasantly surprised that we had more applications than places, but of course then we had to make some tough decisions about which schools we should select.
We tried to choose schools that had the most to gain from working with the college, both in terms of improving their knowledge and understanding of the admissions process and life as a St Peter’s undergraduate, and in terms of teachers’ own subject knowledge, enthusiasm and capacity to benefit.
From feedback so far, it is obvious that the project is having a positive impact in all our ambassador schools – on the teachers, on their students, and on the school more generally:
  • I have recognised students with the potential to study at Oxford and have had positive discussions with them about working toward this goal
  • It has been an invaluable and enriching experience. It also reminds me why I love teaching as I enjoy sharing the information with students
  • After my first 2 sessions I acquired a greater depth of understanding in my chosen area. This has informed my teaching and I have delivered my topic more successfully to students than last year
  • The project provides a framework in which to plan and ensures that it remains at the forefront of priorities in what is a busy work schedule. It allows the member of staff a platform in which to talk to other colleagues and to address students on this matter
  • The event has raised the profile of Oxbridge - students are talking about trying for Oxford
It is also having a positive effect on St Peter’s academics who are mentoring the teachers:
  • It’s great to see how the things we’re discussing in our meetings can directly translate to discussions and work in the classroom
  • I sense that it is a big ask for [the ambassador] to read a couple of plays on top of contextual material on top of a full time job!
  • The sessions have been much more interactive and engaging [than expected]
We are of course looking to get more suitably qualified students to apply to Oxford, and St Peter’s in particular, not least from students with under-privileged backgrounds. This project builds on the original aim of the college to provide a low-cost Oxford education for promising students of limited means. It was wonderful to meet the ambassador teachers and senior leaders at the launch event in September, and I look forward to the 2018 application cycle with cautious optimism, to see if application numbers (and offers) start to increase.
The recruitment of Year Two ambassador teachers plus a few additional schools to join the second year of the project is getting underway, so watch out for future blogs announcing the new participants.
As I depart, I am handing over the day-to-day management of the project to Daniel Pugh-Bevan, Schools Liaison Officer, who can be contacted via
Thanks to everyone at St Peter’s, and especially to all the mentors and ambassador teachers, for making my year here so enjoyable and productive. I look forward to seeing all the participants at the end-of-year exhibition and celebratory barbecue in June!