Public Outreach: Bridging the Gap in the Digital World 

When UK schools were physically closed in March, our current Wellingtonians were fortunate to have access to immediate online lessons and, as far as possible, carried on with a (normal) timetable despite the huge social and cultural shift that we all experienced.  

However, not all school children were so lucky, and at the beginning of September Parliament published a document warning of the frightening gap that has developed in educational provision for disadvantaged students since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic.  Many children experienced very little teacher-student contact; still more did not have the technology or social space to access school work throughout March to September. This has led to a large gap in educational needs for many.

Wellington College has been working with local state schools since 2008 and this relationship has grown exponentially over this time. The College now provides academic and pastoral support for fifteen schools across Wokingham, Surrey Heath, Bracknell Forest, Wiltshire, and extending to Newport in Wales.  In the ‘old normal’, the College has opened its gates to over 2,000 state school students per academic year to successfully run:

  • Enrichment days, events for able students
  • Subject specific days – STEM subjects, languages, sport, music
  • Personal development – revision skills, university applications, wellbeing,
  • Oxbridge support programme
  • US college applications
  • Talks and lectures for sixth form students
  • Educational conferences – leadership, sport, environmental/sustainability
  • University information fairs

Since the start of the Covid crisis Wellington has been able to build on these established practices and platforms to help bridge the gap.

Wellington also offers a more bespoke programme for 100 selected state school students known as the Wheeler Programme.  In this, 20 students are selected in Year 9 and the College helps support them until their graduation from the programme at the end of Year 13, when they have found their confidence and identified their future academic and professional goals. The aim is to mirror the outstanding Wellington education from Year 9 to Year 13 in order to encourage and motivate students to unlock their potential, and to enable them to become the best version of themselves.

Whilst testimonials for the programme are abundant, the following data from June 2019 gives a snapshot of its success:

  • 100% of Wheeler pupils agree or strongly agree that they feel proud to be a part of the programme.
  • 100% of Wheeler pupils agree or strongly agree that they enjoyed sports and activities provided by the programme.
  • 100% of Wheeler pupils reported they felt inspired to pursue a new subject, activity or interest after the residential.
  • 96% of Wheeler pupils agree or strongly agree that they feel more confident after beginning this programme.
  • 92% of Wheeler pupils agree or strongly agree that they feel the Wheeler programme is helping them. 
  • 91% of Wheeler pupils agree or strongly agree that they have made positive personal changes due to the programme. 
  • 92% of students agree or strongly agree that the Wheeler programme has extended their future prospects.

So how is Wellington College helping in the current digital world?  Due to the outstanding support given to these outreach programmes by all staff at Wellington College, the College has been able to offer these on a digital platform. This Michaelmas, 75 personal Oxbridge interviews were run online by Wellington staff to support the Oxbridge applicants from our local state schools.  The College has also continued its work with the Wheeler students, changing regular ‘Study Days’ to regular ‘Study Evenings’ where Wheeler students are able to discuss subjects that extend them beyond their curriculum.  Finally, with great planning from staff across College, a two-week Catch Up Programme has been organised for digital access to core subjects in both A-levels and GCSE. Wellington staff will be delivering 27 sessions accessible online for up to 300 students from our local state schools to assist in closing this educational gap as best as possible.

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