Volunteering with the Schoolreaders charity

Round & About


Peter Henry tells us about his rewarding role as a volunteer with Schoolreaders… Perhaps you could sign up to change lives, too?

Schoolreaders is a national children’s literacy charity which helps children to catch up on their reading by recruiting, training and placing volunteers into primary schools in their local area.

I am happily retired after a successful career however; I can truthfully say that nothing I did in my professional life seems as worthwhile and satisfying as watching the children I read with improve their literacy.

Why is this so important? One in four children leave primary school unable to read to the expected standard.

This means they cannot fully access secondary education and only one in 10 of these children will get a GCSE in English and Maths. This can severely diminish their life chances. One in seven adults in England (7.1 million) are functionally illiterate so cannot read instructions on a medicine label, sit a driving theory test or fill in a job application form. That is why helping children to improve their literacy at primary level, has never been so important.

Nothing I did in my professional life seems as worthwhile and satisfying as watching the children I read with improve their literacy.”

I volunteer in a local infants’ school and my role is to focus on those children, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, who need a little extra help learning to read. Fortunately, one thing of which you can be sure is that all children aged between five and seven are eager to learn and great fun to be with!

I, like many other Schoolreaders volunteers, could share a great many heart-warming stories. These include the boy who, for over a year, had really struggled, then one day was comprehending sentences and asking questions about the book, to the girl who not only reads the stories, but gives each character a different voice. I always return home from school with a spring in my step!

We are always in need of readers especially as more and more schools are asking for our help, which is provided absolutely free. So, if what you have read here has inspired you to think about joining us, and you can commit to an hour a week during term-time for a year, the next step is easy – please just visit School Readers to learn more.

Taking an all-round approach

Round & About


Local charity Inside Out has been celebrating 10 years of improving the wellbeing of children

When a group of children declared a day spent at an equestrian centre to be the ‘best ever’, Inside Out knew they were on to something.

Over the last decade the charity has been responding to the growing children’s mental health crisis by helping schools tackle challenges posed by mental health problems, exam stress and anxiety.

Launched in November 2013 with a Magical Day Out of mindfulness, nature and horses based around the 5 Keys to Happiness for just 10 children from Thameside Primary School, Caversham, it has since supported more than 5,000 children across 20 schools in Reading and Oxfordshire.

Children gain a ‘toolkit’ of fun and practical life skills and strategies they can use in everyday life to reduce stress, find focus, increase confidence and resilience to feel better, learn better and flourish. The impact of their work has been significant, with schools seeing an improvement in children’s mental wellbeing, a development in essential social and emotional skills, and increased engagement.

The initial spark for Inside Out came when Founder and CEO, Stephanie Weissman, became convinced, from personal experience, of a well-proven concept – happiness fuels success, not the other way around. The charity’s underlying belief that ‘happy children learn better’ has never changed. Their 5 Keys to Happiness evidence-based framework has made it easy for busy teachers to promote positive mental wellbeing and has been the foundation for all their work.

When the pandemic hit, free weekly Wellbeing Guides full of simple, fun wellbeing boosts were created and used at home and in school to support children, some of whom were experiencing trauma.

The overwhelmingly positive response to these Guides galvanised the charity to accelerate the completion of a free, digitised ‘Activity Library’ and ‘Wellbeing Programme’. Schools now use these to work towards the charity’s coveted Inside Out Award, which helps them build a whole-school culture to wellbeing. 

Inside Out marked their 10-year anniversary with a new ‘Wellbeing Ambassadors’ pilot, putting children at the centre of leading peer-to-peer support and promoting conversations about mental health and positive wellbeing.

Stephanie added: “We are extremely proud to reach this milestone. The best predictor of an adult’s life satisfaction is their emotional health as a child. We look to the future with an unwavering commitment to inspire children to develop ways to look after their mental wellbeing, so they have the best chance to reach their full potential.”

Find out more at theinsideout.org.yk

Reading made easy

Round & About


Could you help change lives by volunteering with the local charity which helped Jay Blades MBE

Read Easy offers free and confidential, one-to-one coaching, from trained volunteers. The charity encourages adults to come forward and make the phone call that could transform their lives.

Coaches and learners meet twice a week at approved local venues, or online, to work for just half an hour at a time through a structured, phonics-based reading programme.

There are many adults who struggle to read. For them, everyday tasks such as booking a doctor’s appointment, reading road signs or doing the food shopping can be incredibly challenging.

Parents and grandparents, who cannot read, are not able to provide this support for their children and their learning, with many missing out on the important bonding time that comes with sharing a bedtime story.

The BBC1 documentary Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51 followed Jay, The Repair Shop presenter and Chancellor at Bucks New University, as he learnt to read with Read Easy. Like many other parents who struggle to read, Jay had never been able to read his children bedtime stories. The highlight of the documentary was when Jay reached his goal of being able to read his teenage daughter one of her favourite childhood books.

Those who struggle to read should not feel embarrassed about coming forward and asking for help. The charity team say: “There are lots of different reasons why people don’t learn to read in childhood. For some it may have been a lack of support from their own family or school, for others it may have been undiagnosed dyslexia. But people should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. We’re friendly, welcoming and here to help, whatever your age.”

Here is a comment from one of Read Easy’s recent success stories: “I started the Read Easy programme in 2020 when the country went into lockdown. I found it frustrating not being able to help my children with home schooling. Now, I can read with my family, enjoy reading novels and have a new-found confidence in myself and in the future. More than anything I want to show my kids that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. I want to see the smiles on their faces when I read to them. It’s such a massive achievement and nothing makes me happier.”

The Read Easy Chilterns team cover Wycombe, Aylesbury, Amersham, Chesham, Beaconsfield, Gerrards Cross, The Chalfonts, Wendover and surrounding areas. To find out more about the team please visit readeasy.org.uk/groups/chilterns. For more information about seeking help learning to read you’re welcome to call Andy Gaze on 07810 184 371.

For help with reading and to volunteer in the West Berkshire area please contact the West Berkshire group at readeasy.org.uk/groups/read-easy-swindon-west-berkshire

To get involved in the Reading area, please get in touch with the Read Easy Regional Advisor Michelle Baker at [email protected] and in the Oxford area at readeasy.org.uk/groups/oxford-east/

Education Guide: Winter 2023

Round & About


As the new year starts for many it will mean a change in education or time to think about something new, read on for ideas

Click to view the interactive Schools map

Check out more education related articles

Make a splash at school

An initiative launched by The Outdoor Guide Foundation is helping provide Waterproofs and Wellies to state primary schools to allow pupils to enjoy their childhood

As a child, there’s nothing like the simple pleasure of splashing in a puddle. But to do this without being told off and getting too wet, you need the right clothing.

Sadly many children in state primary schools do not have these basic “tools” – Wellington boots, a hooded waterproof jacket and over trousers – to enable them to get out and enjoy this most innocent of pastimes.

However, thanks to The Outdoor Guide Foundation many are now being given this opportunity through the Waterproofs and Wellies Project, the first of what it is hoped will be several similar schemes from the foundation to help disadvantaged children make the most of the natural world around them.

The Outdoor Guide Foundation is the charitable arm of The Outdoor Guide, a free walking tool founded by TV presenter Julia Bradbury and her sister Gina, which aims to make the outdoors more accessible
for all.

Waterproofs and Wellies splashed onto the scene in March 2021 with CBeebies presenter Gemma Hunt launching the initiative alongside Gina. Gemma said: “I am thrilled to be supporting this wonderful initiative and encouraging more children to get outside. The kits provide the basic gear that will allow children to have wonderful outdoor experiences when at school, whatever the weather!”

The goal is to donate 10 sets of wellies and waterproofs to every state primary school in the UK – a whopping 20,000 – to make the outdoors more accessible for all, allowing youngsters to experience, understand and protect nature. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns proved the benefits of being able to get outside: educational, social interaction and empathy, enhancing wellbeing, reduction in anger, stress and anxiety, improved physical fitness and community engagement.

The Children’s Society says spending time outdoors and in nature enhances a young person’s short and long-term wellbeing. It is also known to improve mental development and personal fulfilment, all of which is endorsed by Mind, advocates of the health benefits of outdoor activities in all age ranges including a reduction in anger, stress, anxiety and an increase in physical fitness as well as a sense of balance and personal awareness.

Waterproofs and Wellies is the result of working with reputable suppliers to source the best value kit with the sale cost for the whole kit just £30. The not-for-profit project donates 10 various-sized kits to a school for them to decide how to distribute at their discretion. Schools and parents can buy extra kits at the same cost.

Julia says: “I am thrilled to be supporting this and encouraging more children to get outside in all weathers! These packs have been sourced as the basic gear that will allow children to have wonderful outdoor experiences, whatever the weather.”

If you can help, please donate at tinyurl.com/mpf62jjv

£30 – will buy and deliver one complete kit to a school

£300 – will buy and deliver 10 complete kits to a school

£1,200 – will buy and deliver 40 complete kits to four schools

£10,000 – will provide kits for schools you choose in a specific area

Teachers, to find out more and nominate your school visit theoutdoorguidefoundation.org/

Get involved

Waterproofs and Wellies are calling on businesses to help support the project too – every business which donates £300 to the initiative will receive a certificate thanking them for their gift for putting something back into the community and will be able to choose which schools they support.

Thanks to the generous donations so far, The Outdoor Guide Foundation has been able to help more than 200 schools since the launch. Businesses interested in getting involved in Waterproof and Wellies should email Gina at [email protected] or call 0203 393 5084.

View the interactive schools map

More education related articles

Learn a new skill with Oxfordshire Adult Learning

2023: The year to learn

New year, new courses

Why choose an independent education?

Applying to University – The Personal Statement

Ori lifestyle haircare Q&A

Liz Nicholls


Titilolami Bello is the inspiring founder of ethical haircare brand Ori Lifestyle. We caught up with her & teamed up to offer a luxe set as a prize…

Q. Hello Titilolami! Can you tell me a bit about how & why you founded Ori Lifestyle & why it fills a gap in the market?

“In 2015, I was horrified to discover that my hair had been damaged from excessive styling and heat. Not only was it thinning, but I had lost all the hair around my edges (temple). If I didn’t stop my bad hair care practices, I knew it would get worse and I would be locked in a vicious circle of camouflaging with the exact hair practices that led to my hair loss. I decided to immerse myself in caring for my own hair. However, I was not accustomed to wearing my own natural hair, as it grew out of my head – but I was determined, no wigs, no weaves, no extensions, no braids.

For those outside of my culture of my culture this may be hard to understand. But I belong to that generation that completely subscribed to the beauty standards we saw in magazines, on TV and I was complicit in the erroneous messaging that our hair is hard to manage. Worse still I internalised messaging that our hair is not as desirable. The decision to wear only my own hair forced me to confront these biases. And in the three years that followed, I learnt exactly how to care for my Afro, how to grow it longer and I underwent a mindset shift – I embraced my own beauty and stopped trying to turn my hair into what it was not. A lot of people in my circle started asking for advice because they saw the transformation in my hair and this led to the course and the products followed.

“My brand fills a gap in the market because it is rooted in education, we adopt a holistic approach that considers our client/customer’s lifestyle. So while we sell hair care products, we are constantly educating on the role of nutrition, stress and sleep management.”

Q. Can you tell us about ethical & charity element of the business?

“We donate 50p from every product purchased from us to the UK registered charity, Path to Possibilities. Path to Possibilities sponsors disadvantaged children through secondary school in Nigeria, and in 2017 it established a resource centre in the slum area of Ikota in Lagos, Nigeria. Children in the slum community have access to the charity’s free library and computer centre. Path to Possibilities is close to my heart because I grew up in poverty in Nigeria. I was able to obtain my first degree in law and my master’s degree in public policy because my mother benefited from charitable donations in my early years.

“We pride ourself on being ethical and so we don’t partake in fear mongering marketing or make wild claims about hair growth products which simply do not exist nor do we demonize ingredients such as sulphates, parabens or silicones.”

Q. We’re focusing on education in our upcoming January special. Can you tell us your experience of school?

“I was expelled from school at 14 and I generally didn’t like any of the schools I went to. Given that I went to four girls-only secondary schools, that says a lot. I found that there was a poverty of aspiration for many black children from the type of background I came from in the 1990s. I was forced to finish my education in Nigeria which was a mixed blessing. On one hand, I was surrounded by seemingly engaged and ambitious peers, but I struggled with authority and the excessively controlled environment there too.”

Q. What is your favourite way to learn, and what changes should be made to the system?”

“I do love learning alone or though group discussions, sharing big ideas. When I was in university, I really struggled with traditional lecturers and found the atmosphere extremely stifling and boring. I did really well by studying alone and by attending smaller tutorials. I still believe lectures should be optional in some settings, in favour of something else for people like we who just wouldn’t learn in these environments.”

Q. What’s been the most rewarding part of the journey so far?

“The most rewarding aspect of my business is helping women and mums unlock the potential of theirs or their children’s hair. Unfortunately, many black women have internalised hair discrimination which has hampered them from understanding their hair, or even hindered them from wearing it out in public. When women tell me my work has helped them to reconsider or helped them to start taking better care of their hair, it makes me very happy.”

Q. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start their own business?

Just do the thing. Start and refine as you go along. There will never be a perfect time, you will never be ready.” 

Q. Who would be your dream star or celebrity to champion your brand?

Chimamanda Adiche, the writer. Not only does she have a fabulous head of hair, she is a vocal feminist who continues to shine a light on very many important issues of our time. Her multifaceted interests and commentary embody precisely what an Ori Lifestyle person is.”  

Q. If you could make one wish for the world what would it be?

My one wish for the world would be for us all to realise that there is an imbalance in the value we place on money. And this imbalance is the root cause of many of the atrocities we are facing as humanity, including endangering our environment.” 

Q. Are you a New Year’s Resolution person, and if so what are your wishes for 2023?

I am not a New Year’s Resolution person, I have not had any in many years. But I do have a New Year’s resolution for 2023, my resolution is to pay a little more attention to my writing, which has been on the back burner since I started my business. In 2023, I want to move closer towards marrying both the business and the writing.”  

Q. Can you tell us your favourite places to hang out in the South East?

I particularly love South Lodge Hotel in Horsham, the restaurants and Spa and the hotel itself is a delight, the service and the food are absolutely divine.”

One lucky winner can win a Drip 2 luxe hair care gift set containing Ori Lifestyle’s two-year bestselling khalila oil, cold-pressed Leccino olive oil, as well as our super-fluffy antimicrobial organic bamboo hair towel.

Click to enter.

GCSE success celebrated at Queen Anne’s

Round & About


Queen Anne’s School are delighted to be celebrating an excellent set of GCSE Results with 64% of grades at the coveted top grades 9-7 (A*-A).

English grades are among the outstanding GCSE results at Queen Anne’s School in Caversham.

A superb 44% of English Language students and 43% of English Literature students achieved grade 9 with Anna Spellman, Head of English saying: “This year’s English Literature and English Language results are outstanding! I am so proud of the students who have shown such commitment to English throughout their five years with us. Their success today, despite the disruptions of the pandemic, is truly remarkable. I cannot thank our exceptional English teachers enough.”

Four students achieved an impressive total of seven grade 9s, along with eight students receiving a full set of 9-7 (A*-A) grades. Keira Barton, from Warfield, achieved an exceptional seven grade 9s and three grade 8s, giving her a superb springboard to her chosen A Levels in Psychology, Geography and History. Joanna Ayeni, a full boarder from Essex, received seven grade 9s, one grade 8 and one grade 7. Joanna will be studying Computer Science, Physics and Maths at A Level. Issy Kelly, from Reading, is celebrating a fantastic set of results with seven grade 9s, one grade 8 and one grade 7. Issy is a member of Queen Anne’s School Twilight Dance Company who participated in several dance competitions in her time at the school and recently returned from the Queen Anne’s Lacrosse Tour to the USA.

Queen Anne’s students continue to deliver strong outcomes in STEM subjects with Maths results counting a total of 10 students at grade 9 and sixteen at grade 8. Biology excelled with thirteen students achieving grade 9 and eleven achieving grade 8. The creative arts also saw a set of excellent grades with 79% of students studying Drama securing grade 9-8. Among them is Ella Barker, from Surrey, achieving grade 9 along with other grade 9s in Biology, Physics, English Literature and English Language.

“I am very proud of this year’s GCSE cohort, who have overcome challenging times to achieve an exceptional set of results that will propel them into their next step in education".

Queen Anne’s School is known for its excellent music provision, with approximately two thirds of girls learning an instrument. The state-of-the-art Scott Music Centre with a professional recording studio, an ensemble space and two recital halls opened in 2019. Twins Jaey and Juny Suh’s GCSE results are one of their many incredible achievements since studying at the school, as both international boarders from South Korea were also awarded their post-grade 8 diploma (ARSM). Juny achieving her ARSM in violin and Jaey in flute; Jaey then went on to achieve her ATCL diploma, an achievement usually reached in the first year of an undergraduate degree. Jaey also accomplished a superb 98% in her Maths GCSE and Juny achieved 97%. They will be pursuing their talents in music and have received the Queen Anne’s Society Sixth Form scholarship. Lara Lancaster, from Wargrave, also received the Queen Anne’s Society Sixth Form Scholarship after achieving eight grade 9s and two grade 8s.

Linda McGrenary, Director of Middle School, said: “The students approached these exams with resilience and kept focused on the end goal. I am so proud of how hard they worked, and they are now in a great position as they move into Sixth Form.”

Many girls will be studying some of the six new A Level subjects at the school, now taking the total number of A Level choices to 29 plus the EPQ. Emily Day, from High Wycombe, who achieved a 9 in Biology, an 8 in Physics and a 7 in Chemistry, will be developing her scientific knowledge by studying Environmental Science at A Level. Lucy Triptree, from Lower Shiplake, achieved 100% 9-7 (A*-A) and will be one of the first to study A Level Media at Queen Anne’s.

“I am very proud of this year’s GCSE cohort, who have overcome challenging times to achieve an exceptional set of results that will propel them into their next step in education. They have shown dedication, determination and enthusiasm throughout their GCSEs and I look forward to seeing them flourish in their A Levels and beyond.” said Head of School, Elaine Purves.

Find out more

If you are considering Queen Anne’s School, find out more at our Annual Open Morning on Saturday 17th September. Details online at https://www.qas.org.uk/

Leighton Park celebrates GCSE success

Round & About


“Students can look forward to entering the Sixth Form with confidence” says delighted head teacher

Leighton Park students had a lot to celebrate with their 55% 9-7 grades outstripping the Teacher Assessed Grades last year by more than 5% with an overall pass rate of 96% for grades 4-9.

The school’s strengths in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) and Music have once again been reflected in the results. Student averages for 9-7 grades were as follows: Computer Science 89%, Physics 88%, Chemistry 74%, Biology 65%, Maths 60%, while 95% of Music grades were 9-7. Leighton Park is an International Baccalaureate World School and languages also did well with 100% of Mandarin grades at 9-7 and 66% for German.

Esther Bodkin, with eight 9s, an 8 and an A* said: “I’m very happy. I’m interested in going to Oxbridge and this is a good first step.” Esther’s mum, Justina, added: “She’s worked really hard and we feel really proud of her. The school was really organized through the pandemic and teachers went out of their way with extra support in the lead up to the exams. I’m really pleased they were able to do live exams as these are such important skills.”

Another proud mum, Julia, whose daughter Millie Charlesworth achieved all 9-7 grades, said: “It’s been brilliant. I’ve been absolutely delighted. Millie loves it here. She has remained very calm through all her GCSE’s and worked really hard. She has had amazing support.”

Head of Years 10, 11 & Pre-Sixth, Sally Saunders, understands the challenges this year group have faced with the disruption to their two-year course caused by the pandemic. “I’m so proud of our students. They have developed incredible skills and shown such tenacity to improve on last year’s results under such difficult circumstances. The exam boards, teachers, examination officers and so many others have worked really hard to bring back live exams – which I think is really important. The skills our students have developed in the last year will set them up for success in the future.”

Leighton Park students had a lot to celebrate with their 55% 9-7 grades

The first cohort of film makers taking the BTEC Creative Media Production were pleased with their strong results. Jack Mancey, who achieved a distinction, enthused: “I enjoyed the freedom and creativity of the course. It felt like I was gaining real life skills. I’m planning to take the Level 3 Digital Film and Video Production course in the Sixth Form.”

Laurel Taylor, who also gained all 9-7 grades, added: “I’m really pleased with the results and did well in all the ones I’m taking in Sixth Form.”

Matthew LS Judd, Head of Leighton Park said: “These students should be very pleased with their achievements. The absence of live external assessments over the last two years, disrupted learning due to national lockdowns and all the uncertainty that the pandemic brought has tested their metal. I pay tribute to their tremendous grit, character and resolve. They can now look forward to entering the Sixth Form with confidence. I would like to thank the whole team at Leighton Park for their remarkable dedication. They are true professionals, going above and beyond to support each individual. A Leighton Park education is about much more than exam results but it is heartening to see their work validated in this way.”

Leighton Park has received several accolades in the last two years. The most recent UK Government analysis shows that the school’s Sixth Form leavers achieve the best academic progress in Berkshire, while the Independent Schools Inspectorate awarded it Double Excellent in January 2022 – the highest possible attainment for an independent school. The School was awarded Best Co-ed School 2021, South East England in the Education and Training Awards, while also picking up the national Independent Schools Association (ISA) Award for Outstanding Local Community Involvement for the second year running. In 2020, the school won the national Award for Excellence in STEAM Education – reflecting the school’s strong reputation for teaching creative problem-solving – combining the analytical skills from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), with creativity from the Arts.

Find out more

If you are considering Leighton Park as a secondary school option, find out more at our Annual Open Morning on Saturday 24th September. Book online at https://www.leightonpark.com/visit-leighton-park/ or contact Admissions via [email protected] or 0118 987 9608.

Applying to University

Round & About


Sarah Alakija of Charters Education Support helps students in the UK and abroad to make strong applications to British universities and has some excellent tips to help ahead of January’s applications deadline

The personal statement

The UCAS application can be a source of great stress for students and sometimes a bit of a mystery for parents. The main reason for the stress is usually the personal statement, a brief document aiming to convince admissions tutors that they should give a place to your child. It has to show that the student is interested in the chosen subject and has the academic potential to cope with studying it for three or four years and it can feel quite a challenge to get it right, even more so with applications for popular subjects or to competitive universities.

Getting started

Before students put pen to paper, they need to research their subject in order to be certain that it really is something that they want to study for three or four years. It’s important that students appreciate the importance of this stage and of starting it early, so that if they change their mind, it’s not too late to do another round of research. A vital part of the long-term strategy which all students should undertake is to read widely and to research areas in which they have some interest.

Once your teenager is settled into Year 12, try to get them reading books which are off the A Level/IB curriculum. You can look at the recommended reading lists that some university departments publish but they are often long and it can be tough to know where to start. And remember, everyone else will be reading those too. It can be helpful to get bespoke suggestions from a teacher or external tutor. And it doesn’t all need to be books; there are plenty of online lectures, podcasts, research journals, online courses and even virtual internships which support subject research and which can be mentioned in the personal statement.

Writing the statement

The personal statement should not be a simple list of achievements, books and work experience placements; the best ones will map out the journey which the student has undertaken in order to arrive at the decision to study the chosen subject. Did they read about it? Go to lectures on it? Visit museums, galleries, buildings related to it? Have they genuinely made attempts to engage with it and understand it? With evidence of that journey, students are halfway to convincing admissions officers that they deserve an offer. Once a student has made a genuinely informed decision to study a subject, the entire application process becomes less challenging as they can report on evidence to back up their interest.

The personal statement should not be a simple list of achievements


Once students are ready to start writing, there isn’t a magic formula for the perfect statement but there are definitely a few things which can help to make it a positive part of the application. Here are some points to pass on to them:

1. Think hard about why you want to study the subject. This is a good place to start the statement. It can be a tough question to answer though, so where it just throws up shrugged shoulders and cries of “I just love it”, try thinking of where the initial interest came from as well as considering the value of studying the subject and its wider place in the world.

2. From the super-curricular activities you have undertaken, carefully select a few topics which really interest you and which you’d be happy to discuss in the statement. You may be passionate about sustainability in engineering; behavioural economics; US-China trade wars; exoplanets; AI in healthcare; epigenetics. What gets you excited and interested? What have you researched? These should form a significant part of the statement so that the universities can see where your interests lay and can see evidence that you have looked into these areas far beyond anything in the school curriculum. This clearly shows your academic motivation.

3. Think about your structure. I suggest three or four paragraphs. One introduces your interest in the subject and reasons behind wanting to study. The next two form the bulk and should look at the specific subject areas which you are interested in. The final section can be quite short and would look at any skills which you have gained from extra-curricular activities. These should be transferable skills, meaning that they will be useful at university and beyond.

4. Structure within your paragraphs. Never forget the purpose of the statement is to show your academic motivation, your desire to study this subject in depth so keep using words which reflect that excitement. Don’t forget also not to just paraphrase things you’ve read; give your opinion too. Do you agree or disagree with the status quo? How might you do things differently?

5. There are a few overused words and phrases which you should try to avoid, such as: “From a young age”, “I have always”, “I am a team player” or “passion”. Be original and interesting.

6. If you are applying for an academic rather than a vocational subject, keep that in mind. Work experience may be useful in teaching you some transferable skills, but it won’t necessarily help you to better understand academic theories. Keep everything focused on the academic side. Look at this example put forward by Jesus College, Oxford of how to lean into the academic side of things:

“I am endlessly fascinated by how legal disputes arise, are taken through court and ultimately settled. I could read court cases happily on Christmas Day.”

This is flat and dull and has no academic focus. The following gets specific and so it is much better:

“I am fascinated by how legal professionals trade in language. The 2016 UKSC case of Hotak v LB Southwark turned on the interpretation of “vulnerable” which Parliament had left deliberately vague.”

Once students manage to get started, it’s important to have someone look over their drafts. Teachers will be offering to do this in the summer term of Year 12 and again at the start of Year 13, before submission. Allow plenty of time for the statement to be completed and, good luck, to parents and students!

Good luck, to parents and students!

Cranford House students make the grade

Karen Neville


Inaugural A-level results at Cranford see students achieving top marks

Following the launch of their new Sixth Form in 2020, students at Cranford House in Moulsford, are celebrating an outstanding set of A-level results with 70% of all grades awarded at A*-B and 42% A*/A, alongside a 100% Pass Rate.

Headmaster, Dr James Raymond paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of the school’s students and the efforts of teaching staff, saying: “I am delighted to be able to celebrate the wonderful achievements of our first cohort of Sixth Form students. I am especially pleased that 91% of pupils are heading off to their chosen university.

We are very proud of each and every student: they richly deserve their success

“Our students have worked exceptionally hard against the backdrop of the pandemic, showing a real thirst for knowledge, creativity and resilience, whilst retaining their sense of fun to achieve an exceptional collection of A-level results.

“We are very proud of each and every student: they richly deserve their success and we are excited to watch them head off to the next steps in the world beyond school. I’m also very proud of the teaching team who have worked so hard to support the students through their A-levels this summer and throughout their time at Cranford.”

Dr Raymond and Georgie Cranford

As a leading co-educational day school (3-18), with a strong emphasis on co-curricular provision and pastoral care that really values each individual student, these results underline and reflect the academic excellence that the school has built a reputation for in the Junior School and at GCSE (average value add of +1.6) over the last 5 years.

A busy A-level Results Day has seen families and students celebrating their success in style.

Deputy Head, Megan Carter said: “it is wonderful to see the success enjoyed across Humanities and the Arts with History, Religious Studies, Psychology, Art, Textiles and Music achieving 100% A*-B and English 100% A*/A. Equally impressive, 65% A*-B were awarded across the Sciences. These set of results truly reflect the hard work of the pupils and the academic rigour of the teaching team.”

Sixth Form students at Cranford

Lifelong learning and mental fitness

Round & About


You don’t have to run a four-minute mile…

…to follow in the footsteps of Roger Bannister.

On a windy day in May 1954, a 25-year-old medical student broke track and field’s most famous barrier – the four-minute mile. Roger Bannister won fame at Oxford’s Iffley Road track, with a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.

Bannister, who’d been born into a working-class family, showed promise in education as well as running. After retiring from athletics, he enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a neurologist. He made the Queen’s Honours list twice for his contributions to sport. Then, in his 70s, he returned to his studies – by taking short courses at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education.

Bannister knew that mental fitness carries many of the same benefits as physical fitness, including improved health, mental resilience and longevity. As a research neurologist, he would have understood brain plasticity – how a stimulated brain forms new synaptic connections at any age. Many studies (including one published in The Lancet in July 2017) cites educational attainment and lifelong learning as among the most important factors in preventing one-third of future dementia cases.

Among the topics Bannister explored as an adult learner were the philosophies of Hegel and Wittgenstein, the politics of Asia and America, the making of modern Europe, the history of the Cold War, and the archaeology of Roman Britain.

He went on to complete a longer course too – an Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing. Bannister joked with his poetry tutor that writing a villanelle was harder to achieve than breaking the four-minute mile.

For most of us, breaking a record in track and field is off the table – but lifelong learning is always well within reach. You can follow Sir Roger Bannister’s example at Oxford, choosing from more than 1000 short courses and longer programmes, taught both in Oxford and online.

Learn more: www.conted.ox.ac.uk

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