Trailblazing education conference to be held at Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy

Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy in Stoke-on-trent has been selected to be the first school in the country to host education charity The Brilliant Club's annual conference. The charity aims to increase the chances of pupils from state schools of winning places at leading universities and it currently runs programmes with 10 academies in the Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT).

Brilliant Club logo

OAT-sponsored school Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy (OSSMA) will be the venue for The Brilliant Club's annual conference, which will feature a host of high-profile speakers including Tristram Hunt, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central and Labour's former shadow education spokesman, and Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education.

OAT has been working to ensure its students have the same opportunities to attend the country's top universities as their more economically advantaged peers. It introduced a number of schemes specifically aimed at achieving that objective. These include appointing former University of Oxford graduate Simon Pedley as its Access Champion, to advise students across the Trust, including at OSSMA, on subject and exam choices to maximise their chance of being accepted to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. OAT also works with two Oxbridge colleges to boost its students' chances of winning places at top universities.

The work that OAT is doing is paying off:

  • The number of students at Ormiston academies applying to Cambridge, Oxford or medical schools has trebled in a year – 12 compared to four
  • The number of A-level entries last year doubled across the trust's 30 academies, many of which are in coastal and deprived areas
  • There has been a significant increase in applications to other Russell Group universities

The theme of The Brilliant Club conference, ‘Exploring geography and access to Higher Education', will include discussions from leading education specialists on how geography impacts access to university and how best to tackle this.

Stoke is among the areas of the country with the lowest rates of participation in higher education but Mark Stanyer, the Principal of OSSMA, is playing a leading role in helping to tackle this and has, alongside Tristram Hunt MP, established a Maths Excellence Partnership to drive up maths standards in the area.  At OSSMA, which is rated Good by Ofsted, 52 per cent of disadvantaged students achieved at least five GCSEs at C or better including in English and maths last year, significantly higher than the national average for disadvantaged students (36 per cent). OAT has a higher proportion of students than average from the most deprived backgrounds (55 per cent compared to the national average of 25 per cent).

Dr Chris Wilson, Co-CEO of The Brilliant Club said:

"Every child should have the opportunity to reach the best of their potential and to attend university if they choose to do so.

"Low access to higher education is a big issue in Stoke and across the UK, so I am delighted we are holding this summit to address the major issues that are holding back the life chances of thousands of children.

"The Brilliant Club works together with schools, colleges and universities to address educational disadvantage by training university researchers to deliver academic tutorials and work as full-time teachers in schools across the country. We are looking forward to hearing more from teachers, pupils and university representatives about the other initiatives that are working to increase access and hope that this conference will be a perfect opportunity to share our ideas and successes in the field."

Toby Salt, CEO of Ormiston Academies Trust, said:

"OAT is leading the way in increasing students' access to university and we are committed to ensuring that we level the playing field and make university education accessible to students from all backgrounds.

"We are delighted that OSSMA, one of our academies doing such great work to demonstrate there need be no divide, has been chosen to host the conference by our excellent partners, The Brilliant Club, discussing a topic which is of huge importance to us and education providers across the country."

Mark Stanyer, Principal at OSSMA said:

"We are delighted to host The Brilliant Club's annual conference at Ormiston Sir Stanley Mathews.

"This year's theme is an issue we feel passionate about at OSSMA. In common with all academies in the Ormiston family, we know that every student can succeed, no matter their background and it is this knowledge that drives everything we do."

The conference, which takes place on the 19th of July, is aimed at university representatives, CSR departments, widening participation professionals, teachers, pupils and those with an interest in promoting fair access to higher education. It will offer hands-on workshops and practical advice for education providers on how to develop strategies for widening student access as well as workshops on how to write outstanding personal statements.

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