Equal access: the work of ‘Target Schools’ in Oxford

Egremont is a town in West Cumbria around 300 miles away from Oxford, made up of a population around 8,000. It is here in a remote location, that I submitted my application. I was from a school with little record of Oxford applications, which found itself in ‘special measures’. These factors made it very difficult for me to decide whether Oxford was for me. I had also heard of the stereotypes. But I managed to put these things to one side, focusing on the importance of a world-class education for my future. Staff at my school tried their very best to support me with my application, but a lack of experience and knowledge of the process left me in a one man boat, trying to sail my course to Oxford.

This story is not unique. I know of several hundreds of other sixth form students trying to make this journey today. I know of their stories because of Target Schools.

First, a quick statistics break-down: according to The Guardian, only 11.5 per cent of Oxford students come from ‘working class’ backgrounds, and in 2012 the BBC reported that teenagers from the richest 20 per cent of households were seven times more likely to go to university than those of the poorest 40 per cent.

Having had this experience and then hearing of Target Schools, I applied for a committee position as soon as I could. I hoped I could help support some people like me. Proudly, I can say that Target Schools achieves this on a weekly basis. So when I was asked to write an article about the organisation, I took the opportunity. I write to tell you wonderful Cherwell readers about who we are, what we do, and how you can get involved.
Target Schools is OUSU’s flagship Access & Outreach programme, designed to help such students by busting myths about the university and providing practical support for applications. We support those from backgrounds who are less likely to gain an Oxford education according to statistical analysis. This maximises the impact we can have on young people’s lives, ensuring that our time is best spent. It is all about where you are going, rather than where you are from.

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Our bread and butter is the Shadowing Scheme. The scheme invites sixth formers from across the South of England to Oxford to shadow an undergraduate in tutorials and lectures for a morning. Then sixth formers receive workshop-based advice for their applications. Shadowing days are only possible because of the help our fantastic undergraduates provide, many of whom regularly give up their time. The days are integral due to providing a firsthand experience that showcases Oxford. This is a perfect thing to get involved in at Oxford, supporting access & outreach work whilst improving your CV.

Target Schools also run an annual Roadshow. Our tours are created with the purpose of reaching students in areas of the UK who would struggle to visit Oxford. It was sensationally complicated to get to here from Cumbria for instance. This year, we’re off to Medway and Cumbria, to talk to students about aspirations, and how the university can help students facilitate their dreams. We want to challenge the grassroots stigma that is sometimes attached to Oxford, which will hopefully result in higher numbers of applications to the university. We well know that the ability is there in so many of the students we will see. We need them at Oxford. If you live in Medway or Cumbria and want to lend a hand, get in touch!

If you are excited by what you have heard, there is the opportunity to get involved with the running of Target Schools. Currently we have a 21 student strong committee who run all operations. There will be interviews for these positions in Trinity and Michaelmas.