Fourteen students at Barnwell School in Stevenage are celebrating after they graduated from The Scholars Programme, a national university access initiative.

Students from Year 8 and Year 9 were encouraged to think and work independently across seven tutorials with Anna Maniatopoulou, a subject expert and PhD researcher from Cardiff University.

During the programme, they learned about ‘The Secret to Living a Long and Happy Life’ which encouraged them to consider life expectancy and how this varies within different environments around the world.

Students then completed a challenging final essay which was given a university-level grade.

The Comet: Year 8 and Year 9 students worked with PhD researchers during the programme.Year 8 and Year 9 students worked with PhD researchers during the programme. (Image: Barnwell School)

The Scholars Programme, run by UK-wide university access charity The Brilliant Club, supports students aged eight to 18 in developing the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to progress to the country’s most competitive universities and succeed once there.

By bringing together two communities – PhD researchers and students – who might otherwise never interact with each other, young people can study innovative and inspiring topics that few people have ever covered.

The Scholars Programme has enabled students at Barnwell School to learn beyond the core curriculum and helped them develop key skills for university and later life, such as critical thinking.

Two of Barnwell's Year 9 students, Trinity and Noah - Spoke Scholars at the school - commented on their experience: "We have learnt many new skills which will be extremely helpful and experienced university style learning.


"We have enjoyed this style of learning because it is vastly different to a classroom experience and has given us a taste of what university will look like.

"It has definitely influenced our group to think seriously about university with some people already aspiring to study exciting topics such as palaeontology and neuroscience in the future.

"We would like to thank the brilliant club for this amazing opportunity and especially our tutor, Anna, for leading us through this fascinating course.

"We have all really enjoyed the challenge, particularly writing our final assignments where we achieved some phenomenal grades that we are all enormously proud of."

Jackie Johnson, assistant headteacher at Barnwell, said: "The Brilliant Scholars Programme has had such a positive impact upon our students both in terms of encouraging our scholars to immerse themselves in academic study beyond the school curriculum and in providing them with the skills and knowledge to support them in making applications to top class universities in the future.

"We are immensely grateful to the Widening Access Team at the University of Hertfordshire who funded this programme.'

Anne-Marie Canning MBE, CEO at The Brilliant Club, congratulated the pupils on their achievements: “Congratulations to these outstanding students as they graduate from The Scholars Programme.

"They join a community of over 110,000 young people who have taken part in The Brilliant Club since 2011.

“Completing their final assignments was no doubt challenging, but it has shown that these students have a passion for learning and the knowledge to produce university-style work already.

"I hope they use these new skills throughout their education and continue their fantastic work."