01 August 2019

Kent Academies Network Summer Residential

59 students from five academy schools in Kent got together for a week of intense academic study and cultural enrichment.

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With the prospect of the long summer holidays in sight, the Kent Academies Network (KAN) brought 59 students from five academy schools in Kent together for a week of intense academic study and cultural enrichment amid the dreaming spires of Cambridge and Tonbridge.

Tonbridge School hosted 34 Key Stage 4 students, including 19 Year 9s who joined the programme this year, as the largest cohort to date.  Although this was the first time away from home on their own for some students, they all settled into the new environment quickly, thanks to comfortable beds, delicious food and friendly staff at the school. At the welcome lunch, students huddled cautiously in groups with familiar faces from their schools, but an afternoon of fun ice-breaking activities brought them together as a group and by dinner time, new friendships were already forming. That evening CEO of Pathways, Chris McNamara, talked animatedly about his journey from Hayesbrook School in Kent to founding and running a successful social enterprise focused on helping students to find exciting apprenticeship opportunities with blue chip corporate companies. Chris talked about turning rejection into opportunity and how tenaciously he pursued his dream to study at Loughborough University. His talk introduced the first of several key strands in a week packed with learning.

To help the students make their first steps on their own journeys to top universities, they were given their own Unifrog account and shown how to use the platform which is packed with helpful information and resources to help them find a way to turn their passion into a place at university and a career. They also visited two very different universities in London. Queen Mary’s University and Newcastle University in London. At both sites, students had an opportunity to look around and to talk to current students and staff.

During the week the KAN students also met three alumni of the programme who are currently studying at LSE, Reading and Canterbury universities. Even after all these Q and A sessions, the Year 10 and Year 9 students still had lots of questions about universities and different courses to ask their mentors, who are all currently undergraduates at Oxford, Cambridge, Queen Mary, Goldsmiths and Southampton.

During the day in London the students and mentors visited an interactive science installation called The Centre of the Cell at the Blizard Institute, which is part of the Barts and The Royal London Hospital. Later in the day PhD students from the Institute of Robotics talked to the KAN pupils about their work in ‘soft robotics’ and showed them around the labs. STEM subjects were a big feature of the week’s programme and back at Tonbridge School both year groups had fascinating and enjoyable lessons in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, taught by expert teachers from Tonbridge School and Beneden School. The lessons featured some imaginative and thought provoking practical work; notably Professor Becky Parker, who showed the students how to measure the speed of light using Mars bars and a microwave oven.

As with the Easter residential, there was a thematically related project to complete during the week. The students were asked to work in small groups to make a short film in response the theme of Disruption; Philosophies and Drivers of Change. Six of the eleven mentors delivered lectures relating to the theme, covering topics including Anarchism, Marxism, the art of Banksy, the history of protest in early modern Britain and the disruptive effect of transnational food brands on local and indigenous food cultures. To support the students and to help them realise their ideas, they were given workshops on filming and editing using industry standard software.

It was a week packed with new experiences and learning and a lot of fun for students and mentors and the teachers who generously gave up precious holiday time to teach on the programme.


Jonathan Cheetham, KAN Coordinator

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