10 July 2015

Kent Academies Network Residential Course hosted at Sevenoaks

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Kent Academies Network (KAN) Universities Access Programme

At the beginning of the summer holidays we hosted the KAN residential school. Now in its third year, the scheme aims to provide four years of support to help academically bright and ambitious young people in Kent Academies to successfully apply to top ranking universities in the UK.

KAN consists of six academy schools and their independent school sponsors: Folkestone Academy (King’s School, Canterbury); Marsh Academy (Tonbridge School); Skinners’ Kent Academy (the Skinners’ Company); Isle of Sheppey Academy (formerly Dulwich College); Knole Academy (Sevenoaks); and the John Wallis Academy (Benenden). The Sutton Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge support the programme.

Participating Academies suggest suitable Year 9 students, and an interview panel selects two from each Academy. Residential schools run in the Summer and Easter holidays. The first three were hosted by Tonbridge. These weeks away provide an opportunity to strengthen knowledge of core subjects and also provide the chance to experience a range of subjects and activities that will help them develop their abilities to debate, research and think critically.

Lessons are taught by staff at the KAN schools, and a number of key note speakers foster ambition, motivation and wider interest. Each cohort is supported by undergraduates of Fitzwilliam and Balliol, who mentor the students, teach classes and set goals throughout the year.

This summer, Year 11 students spent the week at Fitzwilliam College being taught either STEM or Arts subjects by research students whilst Year 9 and 10 pupils stayed at Sevenoaks. The pupils and mentors boarded at Johnsons but spent full days on the main campus making use of facilities in and around the Lower School Common Room and play area.

Year 10 enjoyed a day at the Royal Academy and National Gallery, trying to decide what makes a picture valuable and learning about some key paintings. Pupils heard inspirational speakers such as triathlete and scientist Dr Danielle Stewart, cultural leader Hilary Carty and Anji Hunter, former special adviser to the Labour Party and director of communications at BP. Sevenoaks School’s Deputy Head Co-Curricular Geoffrey Stamford also spoke, telling students about climbing Everest. They all emphasised the value of university education, being ambitious and seizing opportunities.

A number of Sevenoaks staff were involved in Maths and English lessons, and Charley Openshaw gave art lessons and Gavin Henry a short drama course in improvisation. Staff and mentors contributed to a very positive atmosphere, enhanced by the response of the pupils themselves. Their progress during the week was a delight to witness. They worked well together, gained in confidence and became increasingly engaged and questioning. They responded well to current subjects but also exploring new areas such as philosophy. Kind weather, excellent food and the use of our sport facilities also helped make this a very successful week. The pupils really enjoyed their stay, and are looking forward to returning at Easter.

Theresa Homewood

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