On 6 July 2021, after five years of enrolment on Wellington College’s Wheeler Programme, the first year of students from local partner state schools graduated.

Matt Dunn, a teacher from a partner school (Archbishop McGrath, Bridgend), said: “Our young people have had their eyes opened to a world they would have never normally experienced and taken part in educational activities that were simply not on offer. Over five years, I have seen their confidence grow; from being timid and incredibly nervous to now surely grasping new opportunities and embracing all the possibilities for their futures”.

Established in 2017, the Wheeler Programme is a fully funded educational programme for one hundred selected state school pupils. Twenty students are selected in Year 9 and the College helps support them until their graduation from the programme at the end of Year 13, by which time they will have found their confidence and identified their future academic and professional goals.

Pupils that graduated were from partner state schools in Berkshire, Hampshire and Wales, including St Crispin’s, Archbishop McGrath, The Holt School, Farnborough Sixth Form and Kendrick School. Through a mixture of group activities, visits to interesting workplaces, universities, organisations and people; talks, lectures, workshops and discussions; individual coaching, and tailored mentoring, each pupil was able to discover, develop and grow their own strengths.

Nick Wheeler, Programme Founder said: “Our graduating students are an incredible group of individuals. I have no doubt that they will go on to achieve great things. We have worked hard over the last five years to ensure that they have been given the confidence and skills to make a difference, to not just their own world, but also to the world of all those around them.”

There have been some great successes with one pupil applying to Cambridge University, another being offered a dream job in mental health care and others being accepted into further education to study accountancy and medicine.

Maddie, Wheeler Programme student, said: “I’d just like to say a massive thank you for putting me in contact with Broadmoor Hospital. I have been offered a job to help the mental health team for a year, with the possibility of going on to being an apprentice there! The Wheeler Programme has made my actual dream job possible and achievable. I am so shocked, as this was my long-term goal! Thank you so much.”

Charlie, Wheeler Programme Student, said: “I received my email from Cambridge today and, unfortunately, my application was unsuccessful. As disappointing as this is, I have no doubt that I would not have gotten as far as I did if it was not for the support from the Wheeler Programme – so thank you!”

Rasta, Wheeler Programme student, said: “Please send my regards to Mr Wheeler and thank him for everything he has been able to provide us with for the last five years – it truly has been a blast.”

The partnership work with the Wheeler students proved to be beneficial for many of the participants during the pandemic. Our students are selected on the basis that they have been identified as requiring extra support for many different reasons. Studying at home and isolated from classmates during the lockdowns exacerbated the difficulties they faced. We kept in touch with regular emails full of resources to aid online learning, helping them stay connected with someone who was ready to help or to listen. In addition, we provided support to the students and their families with advice and guidance on university applications, sixth form and A Level choices, IT problems and help accessing their online sessions, and much more.