Three Shrewsbury teachers, all graduates of Oxford University, and 32 Fifth Form pupils visited Oxford University last week as part of the new Fifth Form Universities Day. This event is part of a new School initiative, designed to inspire our pupils to think about their plans beyond Shrewsbury and to encourage them to apply to the top universities.
Dr Paul Pattenden took a group round his old college of St John's, Huw Peach took a group round Hertford College and St Catherine’s, and I took a group round the Oxford Union and Christchurch Meadow. The weather was kind and we were lucky that it was a particularly busy day. The streets of Oxford were filled with undergraduates in subfusc, nervously awaiting their final exams, while a number of colleges were preparing for their summer balls. The Shrewsbury school pupils asked a number of good questions, while we teachers enjoyed reminiscing about our student days. As well as showing the pupils famous sites such as Tom Tower and Christchurch Meadow, we also looked at favourites haunts such as the Balliol College sports ground and the Carfax Chippy to give them a flavour of student life.
After lunch, we all looked around the Ashmolean Museum, enjoying the various antiquities as the famous Egyptian displays, the Alfred Jewel and the archaeological finds of Sir Arthur Evans from Knossos in Crete. Dr Pattenden then led a scientifically minded group round the Physics laboratories, while Huw Peach and I led a bibliophile group to Blackwell's bookshop. I was proud to see that they are still selling my Augustus book!
As staff we certainly enjoyed recalling our lost youth, and hopefully the pupils will be inspired to reach for the stars as they begin their Sixth Form life.
Dan Edwards (V S) gives his perspective on the day:
Friday 21st June. A group of GCSE survivors boarded a bus heading for the academic hub of the UK that is Oxford. After a long bus journey we got off in the centre of Oxford at the Martyrs Memorial, which the staff quickly reminded us was the site where many Protestant clergy faced the fire during Mary Tudor’s reign.
After this literally very warming welcome to Oxford, a group of us went with Mr Peach to visit Hertford College. We were lucky to get a good look round this beautiful 17th century building, viewing the chapel, dining hall and even being able to cross the Venetian-esque Bridge of Sighs. Along the street we could see the Bodleian Library, the first library I’ve ever seen that could pass as a domed cathedral.
Another brisk walk and we arrived at St Catherine’s College. With its 1960s-style metal box structure, St Catz introduced us to a relatively hidden side of Oxford. One of my fellow students asked, “Why would you build this?” Mr Peach’s father, who was a tutor at the College, quickly explained to us that St Catz provided a friendly open campus, as opposed to some of the older fortress-like colleges.
After lunch, the whole group ventured into the Ashmolean Museum. My dad being in the ceramics industry, I was particularly interested in seeing Marie Antoinette’s very own tableware with the striking image of Versailles on the plate, made only a few years before her sudden and sticky end. After an hour revelling in the world’s jewels, we were given an hour to ourselves to explore Oxford further. Although the call of the coffee shop was tempting, having already had two Costa stops I decided a trip to Blackwell’s Bookshop would be a more productive use of my time.