Sam's Blog

Schools Tour Diary #4 – Cornwall

21 Mar 2015 | Sam | Finances, Schools, Visits away

Week four was probably my busiest week of the tour, and featured a lot of hopping around Cornwall. I really enjoyed visiting schools I hadn’t been to before and seeing new places on my travels (including a return to the coast)!

The week began with an after-school talk at Hayle Community School for a small group of Year 10s and 11s. With the help of a large box of classroom biscuits, we had an informal look into university life, progressing from school to university study, and explored the different options available to suit the students’ interests. It was a nice relaxed start to the week, and it was really interesting to hear from some individual students about what they’d heard from friends and relatives about university, and what their ambitions were for the future.

The following day, I visited Treviglas in Newquay having last been there in 2013. I spoke at length with two Year 12s who were eyeing up applying to either Oxford or Cambridge in the future. We chatted about all things personal statements and interviews, and looked at ways of exploring their subjects beyond school. After this, it was time to talk student life and careers with a group of top Year 9s – we even got a chance to sneak in a couple of excellent BeCambridge videos.

On Wednesday, I hopped on the train to see Year 12 students from Camborne Science and International Academy ahead of the Cornwall UCAS HE Convention the following week. We had a look into Oxford and Cambridge universities to see how they differed from elsewhere in their collegiate structure and emphasis on small-group teaching, before going briefly going through the admissions process. I think a lot of students were surprised to find out that Cambridge was the ‘cheapest’ university option for me, mainly because of the generous financial support they can offer to many students. The low living costs as a student make it a really affordable place to study – check out the video above for an insight into Cambridge student finances.

A nice welcome from Penzance on a sunny day!

It was then time to hop back on the train and go right to the end of the line at Penzance for an after-school talk with Years 10-11 and their parents at Mounts Bay Academy. We had a look at Oxford and Cambridge before a wider exploration of courses at university, careers and selecting appropriate post-16 options. I had some lovely chats with students and parents afterwards too, but couldn’t stay for too long as it was back to Truro that evening to prepare for visits the following day.

I was up bright and early on Thursday for a flying morning visit to The Roseland Community College in Tregony. I really enjoyed my visit last year, and this year was no different! This time, I got to speak with nearly the whole of their Year 11 cohort about university choices and post-16 options, an important topic right when students are finalising applications for sixth forms and colleges.

Her Majesty’s arrival into Plymouth

The afternoon was spent at the Cornwall Sixth Forms Together Oxbridge Conference, an event held at Truro School for post-16 staff from schools across the whole of Cornwall, from Falmouth to Bude to Saltash and everywhere in between! It was incredibly useful to speak directly to those teachers advising students on university applications, and I got to talk more specifically about key elements of the admissions process, such as how the pooling system works, how Cambridge uses contextual data and what information we like to see in the UCAS reference. It was really helpful to hear directly from the teachers about what they’d like help with and to discuss plans for collaborating to support high-achieving sixth formers from Cornwall in the future. The knowledge, passion and enthusiasm of the South West’s school staff will never fail to amaze me!

The final stop on week four of the tour took me to Community School for a talk with able Year 10s and 11s, complete with a break halfway for the solar eclipse! The students were really engaged and informed; it was great to be able to dispel some of the myths and stereotypes surrounding top universities and reassure the students that Cambridge welcomed students from Cornwall just as much as anywhere else!

To round off a fantastic week, I even managed to arrive at Plymouth train station at the same time as the Queen! I admit I was a little curious about the crowds and the abundance of Union Jack flags at first. Can week five surpass solar eclipses and royal visits?


I was once a student at Downing, but now I work full-time as the School and College Liaison Officer. I'm responsible for organising our outreach work in the South West and advising students and teachers on all things Cambridge!