Sam's Blog

Schools Tour Diary #1 – North Devon and Poole

16 Feb 2015 | Sam | Schools, Visits away

Every year, the School and College Liaison Officer at Downing (that’s me!) takes part in a schools tour around Cornwall, Devon and Dorset in the spring term. This involves visiting loads of different schools in the South West for individual talks with groups of students and teachers, as well as running events such as our Information Days.

I’m not the best at early mornings, but I was happy to brave the chilly cycle to Cambridge station on the morning of Monday 9th Feb, heading up to Barnstaple in North Devon to start off the first week of my schools tour. With a bag full of postcards and bookmarks to hand out and a USB stick at the ready, I was looking forward to speaking with lots of students in Years 10 and 12.

As part of Petroc’s Forward Thinking Week, encouraging students from the area to think about their next step, I was asked to deliver a series of workshops for Year 12 students at the college on applying to Oxford and Cambridge. It was great to speak with small groups of students and dispel some of the pervasive myths associated with both universities. We looked at the courses offered by each university, what teaching styles to expect, and discussed the key elements of the admissions process.

I also had a great time speaking with groups of fifteen Year 10 students from some of the local feeder schools: Holsworthy Community College, Pilton Community College, Great Torrington School, Park Community School and Braunton Academy. In these sessions, we explored how university life and study differs from school, courses and careers, and choosing appropriate post-16 options for top universities. All the students were really enthusiastic!

After finishing up in Barnstaple, it was time to continue the theme at the Petroc’s Tiverton Campus. I spoke with a group of Year 12 students from their A Level Academy about researching university options and how to go about choosing a course. Following this, it was time to talk higher education with Years 9-11 from the next-door Tiverton High School. I got some great questions at the end – some students had definitely started their research early which is great to see.

At lunchtime on Wednesday it was time to wave goodbye to a rather sunny North Devon and hop on the eastbound train to Poole. That evening, I spoke alongside two current Oxford and Cambridge offer-holders to a packed hall at Parkstone Grammar School, with students from Poole Grammar School, St Edward’s School and Poole High School in attendance too. I gave a brief overview of the universities and the admissions process before we had some first hand accounts of applying from the two Year 13s.

I managed to sneak in a quick visit to Twynham School on Thursday afternoon before heading back home, again looking at university study and careers with Years 10 and 11. Even with it being over their lunchtime, the group were really keen to learn more and we had some fun checking out the list of Cambridge student societies! I’m looking forward to seeing Twynham’s Year 12s at our Oxford and Cambridge Information Day in Dorchester in April.

A huge thanks to all of the teachers and school staff who helped to make the first week of the schools tour such a success. Roll on the next one after half term!


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!