Oldham Sixth Form College wins prestigious Social Mobility Award

Date published: 26 June 2024

The dedication and innovation of Oldham Sixth Form College (OSFC), and its partner schools, in helping students access the places at the most competitive universities has been recognised with a prestigious award.

OSFC was congratulated at the national annual Sixth Form College Association’s (SFCA) conference.

OSFC was chosen as the winner of the ‘Social Mobility’ award for its groundbreaking Varsity Academy project.

This is the third prize that OSFC has received for its work on social mobility in recent years, following on from its awards from Educate North and upReach.

The Varsity Academy was launched in October 2022 and is an outreach programme for high-achieving students in its 10 Oldham partner schools - Co-op Academy Failsworth, The Hathershaw College, Oasis Academy Leesbrook, Oasis Academy Oldham, Newman RC College, The Oldham Academy North, The Radclyffe School, Royton and Crompton Academy, Saddleworth School, and Waterhead Academy.

The Varsity Academy involves 160 students from the 10 schools who are selected, based on academic performance and potential.

They are split into two subgroups: Maths and Science and English and Humanities.

The students visit OSFC once per term in Year 10 and once in the first term of Year 11.

All students engage in academic seminars designed to ease their transition to higher level study and to stretch and challenge their abilities.

The sessions allow them to work collaboratively with their peers from other schools, and the seminars are accompanied by a termly lecture exploring Further and Higher Education.

The Varsity Academy’s goals are to give the students a sense of entitlement to whatever progression route they choose, to demystify Higher Education, and to equip them with the knowledge and skills to thrive in their studies.

It is the college’s belief that the earlier they start supporting students, the greater the positive impact they can achieve.

The feedback from students, schools and parents has been fantastic.

Students greatly enjoyed being required to ‘think deeply about issues’, as well as getting ‘a brilliant insight into university and my future’.

Equally, school teachers were pleased by how the sessions 'stretched pupils’ knowledge and understanding’, while one set of parents described the initiative as a ‘life-changing opportunity’ for their son.

Dr Richard Lee, Assistant Principal at OSFC, and the architect of the Varsity Academy, said: "Social mobility is at the heart of everything OSFC aims to achieve.

"Our mission is to transform students’ lives through academic excellence and outstanding support, and the Varsity Academy is a vital aspect of our aspirations for students.

"The award also acknowledges the first-rate relationships we enjoy with our partner schools.

"Without their help and support the Varsity Academy would not be possible.

"And the most credit must go to the amazing students who have participated.

"They have engaged with complex ideas and pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones, with an open-mindedness that has been inspiring.

"We are looking forward to finding even more innovative ways of advancing social mobility with them in the future."

Glynn Potts MBE DL, Headteacher for Newman RC College, added: "The varsity programme has been a ‘game changer’ in terms of collaboration and opportunity.

"It was cut through the current system of inter-school competition to instead focus on student success, ambition and collaboration.

"I can think of no other initiative across Oldham or beyond that offers such support, without cost, that has such impact and benefit to all.

"As a town, we know that our young people are no less talented than any other child in the land, but what they perhaps lack is opportunity and exposure.

"The varsity programme affords all within it to have such benefits."

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