Choosing Subjects for Sixth Form

Over the next few weeks and months, our year 11 students will be finalising their option choices. Like most schools, we ask them to pick initial options with the knowledge that many students will naturally make changes to these before our September start date. In this blog posting, we aim to give students some tips to help them make the right decisions.

Tip 1:  Get Advice

Lots of people will be keen to offer you options advice. Your subject teachers will know your skills and ability in a subject and will be able to advise you on whether they feel you are capable of studying a particular subject at sixth form. Your form tutor and progress leader will also know your strengths and weaknesses across all subjects and will be able to advise you on whether a particular pathway is suitable.  When choosing subjects it’s always useful to talk to staff from the sixth form team.  They will have lots of experience of advising students about options and will be able to give you crucial information about the nature of subject courses, entry requirements, subjects that need to be studied to gain access to certain careers or higher education courses etc.  Every year the sixth form team at Radyr have over 100 meetings with students and parents to try to make sure we get our students on the right courses. If you are a year 11 student reading this, seek out support from your sixth form team. They will be able to advise you to make sure the subjects you pick not only complement your strengths and skills but also fit in with any careers plans you may have for the future. Sixth form staff will be able to discuss the suitability of options with you based on your current expected GCSE grades.  They will also be able to give you an indication of what your target grades would be if you chose particular subjects at sixth form which is crucial when making decisions. Remember any target grades at GCSE, AS, A-level or BTEC are there as a guide to motivate and help you.  At Radyr Sixth Form, we will set students the challenging target to achieve results in the top 25% of UK students with the same GCSE results. We are proud that not only do our students meet these targets, in many cases they exceed them. Knowing what your target grades are likely to be based on your current GCSE grades is a very powerful tool to help you make the right option decisions.

Tip 2: Play to your Strengths

When choosing sixth form subjects, it is important to play to your strengths, by that we mean choosing subjects you are good at and enjoy. This might sound obvious but every year we encounter students who choose subjects that they have struggled at for GCSE because they feel it is essential for a particular career pathway.  The jump from GCSE to AS-level is massive and if a student finds a subject very demanding at GCSE it is highly likely they will not cope with the increased demands of the subject at sixth form. Although some degree courses specify that you need to study a particular subject at A-level to be considered, (for example if you want to study medicine, you will need to study chemistry and biology), most do not. Therefore when picking options, think about choosing the subjects you enjoy and which you can get the best overall grades. At Radyr we offer around 30 different courses, the majority are AS/A-level courses however over recent years we have seen a big increase in the popularity of vocational courses. Courses such as BTEC Information Technology, Sport, Applied Science and Business are coursework-based and are ideal for students who tend to perform less well in examination-based subjects. Students from all abilities can access these courses and they are equivalent to A-level.  A recent trend at Radyr has been that a number students are choosing a mixture of traditional A-level subjects and vocational qualifications. Students who have chosen this pathway have told us that they have found it useful in terms of balancing their workloads. For example, choosing 4 coursework-based subjects, or 4 exam-based subjects in year 12 may be demanding to even students who excel in each type of assessment. Picking a combination of subjects that have a balance of coursework and examination-based assessment is always a sensible option.

Tip 3: Carry out your own Research

Although there will be plenty of people who will be keen to offer you options advice, parents, teachers, careers advisers, etc, ultimately the final decision will be only yours to make. Therefore it is essential you carry out some research first. Firstly, as we have mentioned previously, before picking any options it’s important to check whether you will be required to study specific subjects for future university courses or for any future career plans you may have.  There are a number of ways you can do this. The easiest is through the UCAS website search tool.

This allows you to search through their massive database of courses and to drill down on the entry/subject requirements of courses that may interest you.  At Radyr we have started using the fantastic Unifrog platform that is incredibly user friendly with the added advantage of being able to store any searches. Two other great websites that offer a wealth of careers and university information are Which? University and Pure Potential.

Before embarking on any sixth form subjects, make sure you research what you are likely to be studying and how you will be assessed. In Wales, in most circumstances you will be following WJEC courses for AS and A-level.  You can find copies of subject specifications, past papers and revision material on the WJEC website.  As mentioned previously, its important to think carefully about how each subject is assessed and whether that would suit your strengths and skills.  For example if you are someone who struggles writing an essay, avoid subjects which involve a large amount of extended writing, e.g. history, politics, sociology etc.

If you have friends already studying at sixth form, it may also be useful to chat to them about their current options and how they have found the transition from GCSE. On our Radyr Sixth Form Interactive Prospectus, we have a number of video subject guides made by past and current students, where they talk through their reasons for choosing specific subjects and what they are enjoying studying in each. Seize every opportunity to find out about what you will be studying. For English, students will often pick up reading lists of poetry, texts etc that will be covered during the course. This is excellent practice, as it not only helps students make an informed decision, but it also gives students who decide to take the subject the opportunity of building up their knowledge of this material before starting the course.

At Radyr, our students have now made their initial option changes and over the next few months we will be starting to build the option blocks to meet our students’ curriculum needs. Like most sixth forms, any choices you make can be changed. Typically over 150 option changes will take place between GCSE results day and the first week of term. We like other schools appreciate that students will often do better or worse in a subject than expected and therefore this will make them think differently about their sixth form options. We want to support our students fully and therefore we build flexibility into any curriculum that we offer.

Do not spend too much time worrying about whether you have made the right options at this stage of year 11.  It is much more important to focus on getting the best set of GCSE’s that you can.  The better you do at GCSE, the more options will be available to you. There is always time after your exams to review your choices and to fine tune your subject options if necessary. Hopefully the advice in this blog will prove useful to you and do not to be afraid to ask for help.

2021 Seren Network Summer School at Jesus College, University of Oxford.

This article has been written by year 13 student and current Radyr Comprehensive School Head Girl Abbie Morgan.

Hi, I’m Abbie and this August I attended the Jesus College Oxford Summer School Residential Programme through the Seren Network. The fully funded 5-day residential programme set up by Welsh Government supports 75 Welsh state school students.

I found out about this opportunity in year 12 through the Seren Network and by speaking to previous pupils who had attended the programme from Radyr. The school were really helpful throughout the application process which involved writing a personal statement along with an essay. For the essay we had to explain the meaning of a word chosen from a list of 10. I chose to base my essay on ‘success’.

The college I stayed at was Jesus College which was founded in 1571 at the request of a Welsh lawyer and clergyman, Hugh Price. Due to its Welsh history, Jesus College’s outreach programme is aimed at Welsh students and receives a large number of Welsh applicants each year. It’s located in the centre of Oxford and is only a 5-minute walk from the university libraries. I was also fortunate to dine in the Elizabethan dining hall which is decorated by many portraits of notable people linked to the college. For example, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1, the founder of the college, hangs at the end of the hall. The college is fully enclosed from the public with 3 quadrangles consisting of buildings around all four sides and a green space in the middle. The vibe of the college is similar to Hogwarts with oak panelling and stone buildings. Other facilities include a library, chapel and college bar.

The main aim of the summer school is to help students decide whether Oxbridge is the right fit for them. It also allows students to experience a tutorial at the end of the week. Tutorials are specific to Oxbridge and is one of the key aspects that differentiates Oxford and Cambridge from other universities. My tutorial was held with 3 other participants along with a tutor. Throughout the week I completed an essay based on the prompt “Supermodels are feminist icons” – Do you agree?” which was then discussed within my tutorial. The tutorial allowed me to discuss points I had raised in my essay along with ideas others had talked about within their own essays. The tutors asked us specific questions and then allowed us to chat about different views and opinions. Although it was daunting at first, I learnt valuable skills in discussion, and it ensured that I fully understood the topic I had written about.

The main theme of the residential was ‘Superpowers’. Throughout the week we were given various lectures and seminars surrounding the topic. Lectures were given to all participants together and ranged from ‘Superspreading’ to ‘Chocolate, and other forms of supernormal stimulation’. For seminars we were split into 3 different groups based on the subject we wanted to study at university. I was in blue group which contained those who wanted to study maths, computer science and sciences. Some seminars which I took part in were ‘supersize’ and ‘quantum supercomputing’.

Despite being an academic based residential programme, the week didn’t just comprise of lectures and seminars. One lunchtime we had a picnic and tour of St Catherine’s College which allowed us to experience a more modern college. We were also invited to a celebration dinner at New College where we had a sit down three course meal in a Harry Potter style hall along with visiting the cloisters where part of it was filmed.

Furthermore, we had a large amount of free time in the evenings which allowed us to explore the City of Oxford. The Junior Common Room (JCR) was open every evening and was a space to chat to new people and have a few games of pool. Other organised activities included a board game night, a movie night and a picnic in University Parks. All the students were smart but also enjoyed downtime and as they were Welsh, we all had lots in common.

I would definitely recommend applying to the summer school, even if you are unsure about applying to Oxbridge as it provides excellent lectures and seminars which can be used for personal statements along with the opportunity to make lifelong friends. There is nothing to lose as the residential is completely free and it will one hundred percent inspire you with your future endeavours.

Tips for motivation at home – Radyr Sixth Form Council

The following blog article has been written by students from our Radyr Sixth Form Council.

We know this year has been really tough with home learning and lockdown restrictions, and it’s really hard to find the motivation to do anything when every day is the same. So, here are the Sixth Form Council’s wellbeing tips on how to stay motivated at home.

Tip 1 – Consider what you want to achieve in the long and short term

Long term goals are a great motivator for self-improvement as they give a general idea of what direction you want your life to follow and the achievement of a long-term goal provides a huge sense of accomplishment. Therefore, it is important to consider what long term goal you hope to achieve from studying. Many people will already have a long-term goal in mind however if you don’t, now is the time to think. Consider:

  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?
  • What’s your career goal?
  • Do you have a university ambition?

Being able to visualise your long-term goal is also very important. Whether this be watching a TV show based off the career you aspire to or creating a visual representation of your goal on a poster on your wall. Each time you feel unmotivated you can return to this visualisation and it can help reinforce your vision for the future and therefore remind you of the importance of what you need to do now.

Here is an example of a vision board. It shows various different long-term goals – that you can break down into smaller short-term goals – that encompass both school life and goals for exterior personal development. Perhaps create one for yourself to remind yourself of what it is you want to achieve in the short and long term.

Short term goals also help to minimise procrastination as they lay down a clear and defined path to success allowing you to focus on one small thing at a time. Trying to achieve a long-term goal often seems intimidating therefore setting various different short-term goals in order of priority will lead you on a more direct and achievable path.

Tip 2 – Create a timetable

Another great way to stay motivated and on track to achieve your goals is to create a timetable personalised to you. Your timetable can be as strict or relaxed as you want provided it keeps you on track to achieve your short-term goals. Making daily or weekly timetables specific to what you need to achieve in those timeframes is the perfect way to avoid procrastination. Timetables are also a brilliant way to ensure that to you have enough variation in your days with a combination of work and recreation which is important to maintain a positive mindset. It will also help you to achieve what do you need to within a specific time frame for example a coursework deadline you may need to meet.

Remember to work when it’s right for you. If you work best late at night, or early in the morning, then create your timetable to suit those times. Don’t go trying to change your sleep pattern or forcing yourself to do work at times you know you struggle with. It won’t work. Also, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t stick to this. It’s difficult to stick to meet your timetable every day, especially when teachers are setting more or less work than usual or it’s a particularly busy week etc. Nobody is going to be able to meet their timetable every single day, no matter how loose or strict it is!

Finally, make sure you leave plenty of time to relax. You can relax in whatever way you like, whether it be reading a book, meditating or doing some exercise. It’s important to look after your mental and physical well-being as well as your academic progress. You need a rest to allow your brain to digest what you have learnt, absorb it and retain it or you will just waste your time. So, make sure you take plenty of breaks, eat healthily, exercise when you can, and try your best to maintain a positive mindset. We know this is hard, and it can’t be done every day. But it is important you do so when you can.

Here is an example of a timetable we have formulated. It is generic and not specific to you and so this should only be used as a rough guide.

Tip 3 – Keep a record of what you’ve completed

Sometimes following a timetable or plan doesn’t reinforce a sense of accomplishment, therefore keeping a record of what you’ve achieved is a great way to be proud of your accomplishments and keep track of your progress.  Making a tick list as shown below helps to visualise how much time you spend on each subject alongside how many hours of revision you’ve achieved. Along with motivation, this can also help with subject time allocation ensuring you don’t overcompensate in specific subjects.

Tip 4 – Create a To Do list

Alongside short term goals having a daily to do list is a brilliant way to stay on top of your work. The breakdown of tasks into more manageable pieces is also a great way to monitor your progress. Take 5 minutes at the start of each day to create your to do list either for the day. Add tasks as they come up in order of priority and tick them off as soon as they are complete. It’s important for tasks on a To Do List to be prioritised by importance as this helps to ensure that you finish all your work in time, ready for whatever deadlines have been set. Reviewing your To Do List will provide you with a sense of relief and accomplishment as you see how far you’ve come throughout that day. This will inspire you to keep going and keep you motivated.

This is an example of a to do list where work has been broken up into more manageable tasks using the notes page on a phone:

Tip 5 – Find a fun but productive way for you to study

School work can often seem monotonous and boring if you’re not working in the right ways for you. It’s important to find a fun way to learn such as using colour, revision games and flash cards. Learning techniques vary from person to person and therefore it’s important to find out your specific strengths when studying and utilise them to improve your productivity. It’s always great to try new methods until you find one that works for you. You could even use a combination of techniques. For example, if you’re a sociable person perhaps try verbal recall with a sibling or friend. Using zoom or teams is the perfect way to do this at the moment. Others may prefer to use Quizlet or other flashcard app in order to condense notes into more manageable chunks using flash cards in games or just regular recall. Finally, active recall is a popular method in which you read over your notes and textbooks and then write out everything you can remember after a certain amount of time on paper. You then go back over this and add in whatever you’ve forgotten for next time. If you don’t already know what type of learner you are, this is a great quiz that can help you find out (Making the most of your learning style: Learning style activity | Help Centre | The Open University) created by the Open University.

Tip 6 – Reward yourself!

Achieving short- or long-term goals is a huge accomplishment and therefore it’s important to reward yourself. Whether this be watching your favourite film, having a snack or having some extra time off to go on a walk. Being able to reward yourself reaffirms how far you’ve come and will therefore offers an incentive to motivate you to keep going.

One way you could reward yourself is by having a games night or a movie night with friends or family over Zoom. Maybe create a quiz that everyone can join in on? Or pick your favourite movie to watch. Our mental health is being impacted by this pandemic, especially as we’re not allowed to socialise with the friends we’ve spent every day with for years! So why not bring back those fun activities we did in a different way?

Tip 7 – Don’t beat yourself up!

If you haven’t achieved your daily goals you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it, instead take some time to reflect. Consider what you can improve for next time to prevent it from happening again. This isn’t a sign of failure or incompetence, it simply means that you couldn’t manage it today! Seeking perfection and then beating yourself up for a misstep or harshly self-criticising yourself for each task perceived as underachieved isn’t helpful. Instead of helping you reach your goals, self-criticism belittles you and therefore won’t help you thrive in the future. You should focus on what you have achieved, whether it be the previous day’s work or a small task you were able to complete earlier in the day. Make a list of what you’ve done well and remind yourself of them when you’re feeling down to help eliminate negative thinking and keep your energy up. Treat yourself as you would treat others, you would never overly criticise a friend if they missed a single deadline, you’d reassure them that they could catch up in the future, and that’s exactly what you should say to yourself. Finding the way you work is a long process so be patient, you will achieve your end goals even if it happens in a way you didn’t initially predict!

Tip 8 – Don’t burn out!

It’s always important that you don’t overwork yourself and burn yourself out. In order to prevent this, it’s important to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, practise good sleep habits and finally ask for help if you need it. You shouldn’t overwork yourself instead you should be taking regular breaks which can be planned within your timetable. Only you know when you need to break, so you must listen to your body and take some time off. Asking for help is also really important if you feel that you’re struggling with your school-work or just generally, you should reach out. This could be to a friend, a parent, the school or anyone that you trust. They will be able to provide you with extra support to prevent you from overworking yourself.

Eversheds Sutherland Unlocked Programme- Law Work Experience

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In this latest blog article, Year 13 Radyr Sixth Form students Sam Holloway and Mali Hurford discuss their experiences of the Eversheds Sutherland Unlocked Programme.

I attended the Eversheds Unlocked programme in April, 2019. I was based in their Cardiff firm which allowed me to gain a deeper insight into the legal profession whilst also observing a variety of areas in Law. The Unlocked programme showed me what working in a top 10 global Law firm is like and also gave me the chance to network with apprentices, partners, clients and barristers. Having the opportunity to network with these people has allowed me to see that entering the legal profession is for me.

The Unlocked programme revealed the different ways in which you can enter the legal profession. Before starting this, I thought that the only way into the legal profession was to complete a Law degree and the LPC and then secure a training contract. However, Eversheds showed me that you can enter the legal profession by completing a Solicitor degree apprenticeship. This apprenticeship gives you the exact same qualifications that you would have after completing a Law degree at university, but gives you the chance to work within a Law firm as a solicitor apprentice and also earn a salary at the same time.

Not only did the Unlocked programme allow me to see the different routes into Law and allow me to network with solicitors, barristers and clients but it also put me in contact with a mentor. This mentor was a solicitor from Eversheds who has given me lots of help throughout my time at 6th form. For example, my mentor has given me tips on choosing a university course, they have helped with my UCAS personal statement, given me advice on what to expect when entering the legal profession and has also provided me with knowledge on the skills in which employers want to see in prospective solicitors. Having a mentor has helped me through the university process and has given me the opportunity to have a valuable contact within a top 10 global law firm as well as the ability to contact them in the future with any questions I may need help with.

Attending the Eversheds Unlocked Programme has opened my eyes to the legal profession and what to expect from a Law degree at university or a Legal apprenticeship. My advice to anyone who is thinking about attending this programme is that they should go for it. It is a three-day course which will give you a lifetime of opportunities, not only in school but also in your future career.

Sam Holloway

The application process for the Eversheds Unlocked Scheme contained scenario-based questions that required me to talk about how I would respond to a hypothetical situation. To do this, I had to provide solutions on how I would tackle each issue or circumstance.

I was successful in my application and was selected to be a part of the Eversheds Unlocked scheme 2019. This opportunity gave me first-hand experience, which enhanced my understanding of the inner workings of a law firm.  Furthermore, I developed connections within the legal community, by liaising with firm partners, clients and an allocated mentor. This gave me a more profound insight into the intricacies of law at a professional level. I was also able to seek advice from these individuals on my UCAS application, which was particularly useful.

Additionally, the scheme allowed me to gain an insight into a variety of departments at Eversheds. For example, litigation, construction and employment. However, along with a variety of solicitors, we were also able to meet barristers. This allowed me to obtain advice on both different routes of law, such as which qualifications I would need and what I could expect from the job role. Furthermore, the scheme enabled me to explore all the different routes to qualify as a solicitor outside a law degree, such as an apprenticeship or CILEX.

My time at Eversheds Sutherland has been invaluable. The solicitors I encountered have offered me valuable advice throughout my time at sixth form through emails, phone calls and meetings in their office. Moreover, these contacts will continue to offer advice throughout my further education.

Mali Hurford

To learn more about the programme and how to apply, click the link below.

https://www.eversheds-sutherland.com/global/en/where/europe/uk/overview/careers/unlocked/index.page?

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Yale Young Global Scholars Programme 2019

This blog posting is written by year 13 students April Spiteri, Elicia Prince and Abi Hall and describes their experiences of the Yale Young Global Scholars programme (YYGS) which they took part in during the summer of 2019.

YYGS BLOG

Hello.  We are April, Elicia and Abi and last summer we were lucky enough to attend a Yale University summer programme as Young Global Scholars (YYGS) in the USA. As members of the Seren Network, we were funded by the Welsh Government.  This blog will outline our experiences and thoughts on the programme.

We found about this opportunity in Year 12 via the Seren Network and through an alumnus, Rianna Mann, who previously attended our school.  This meant that we had guidance throughout the application process, which consisted of writing three academically challenging essays, which required us to demonstrate our passion for our chosen course and the way we think, showcasing our individuality. Although funded by the Welsh Government, it was our responsibility to complete the finance section of the application. However, don’t let the length of the application put you off; it’s completely worth it!

APRIL

The course that I chose, after much debate, was ‘Applied Science and Engineering’ (ASE) which included lots of physics, maths, mechanics and some biology.  The academic side of YYGS was challenging and I learned a lot more than I ever thought I would going into this programme.  We had lectures from world-renowned scientists, including a lecture from Priyamvada Natarajan who has worked with Stephen Hawking and is known for her work on dark matter and dark energy in space.  Along with lectures, every day we would have seminars on chosen subjects and later on in the evening have the ‘dreaded’ Capstone project meetings, which is basically a research project that became one of the highlights of my experience.  Every evening my group met and worked on our project whilst blasting music on the speakers. My project was on how driverless cars can be incorporated onto the roads in a safe and natural way.

Along with academics, YYGS incorporated many fun non-academic events, including a talent show, a speaker series, and a leaving party.  All the students in the talent show gave a glimpse into customs and traditions of their country and it was amazing to see the diversity of the programme.  The speaker series is a set of presentations from people attending the programme.  It gave me an insight into problems that certain countries and young people are facing, that I had not heard previously.

Although this programme is about academic enrichment, the most important part of my experience was the people.  I spent my free time walking around the beautiful buildings of Yale University with friends from all over the world, who I still speak to everyday and I hope to meet again in the future.

ELICIA

I applied for the ‘Sustainable Development and Social Entrepreneurship’ course (SDSE), mostly because it seemed like a course where I could be exposed to knowledge that I had not learnt before. An academic highlight for me was certainly the seminars I chose. These ranged from discussing the importance of corporate social responsibility, to American homonationalism, to philosophical studies of religion and happiness. I would entirely recommend SDSE because it caters for all types of thinkers in an open-minded space, making it very mentally stimulating.

Although YYGS is a rigorous academic programme, it is equally social. We were given lots of recreational time whereby we relaxed with our friends in the game room or went out for food. YYGS also hosted events such as the talent show which was a great way to appreciate all the talent attending the programme. But, it is safe to say that the biggest thing I have taken away from my experiences in Yale is the people I met. Being a global programme, there were students from over 160 countries there the same time as me. I made friends from Hawaii, China, South Africa and more, all of whom I talk to everyday. You get to understand all types of cultures and we even tried loads of foreign food, which was really cool. Although it’s a bit rubbish that some of your best friends live halfway across the world from you, at least you know you have lifelong friendships in places you would never think to visit.

If I had any advice for students thinking of applying, I’d just say do it. I was hesitant to, however I’m glad I did YYGS as it is honestly a once in a lifetime experience. Although the process can seem daunting, applying will do no harm and could actually result in you being a future Yale global scholar. Not to mention that it is fully funded by the Seren network and therefore the only costs our cohort had to pay was spending money and flights. Even if worried about flight prices, Seren can help those who need it with flight sponsorship, so that anybody of any background doesn’t have to miss out of the best opportunity they will ever have.

ABI

I attended the Frontiers of Science and Technology session for 2 weeks. I was involved in an incredible scope of seminars on subjects from astrophysics to quantum biology. YYGS entirely reaffirmed my love for topics that fundamentally unite philosophy and mathematics, such as Chaos Theory and the invention of zero, which I am now exploring further through my Welsh Baccalaureate personal investigation. Not only was it academically liberating, but YYGS took me out of the UK, allowing me to meet equally as enthusiastic people from all over the world, and gave me a taste of university life, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Through the diversity of people within the programme I learnt as much in the lectures and seminars as I did speaking to people in my free time.

Seminars of the ones I was allocated:

– How Do We Take Pictures in Space?

– Does Science Have Limits? Are Scientific Questions the Most Important Questions?

– 4,000 Planets and Counting.

– Introduction to Graph Theory.

– How Does a Bird Know How to Fly South? The Quantum Leap That Might Be Needed To Answer This Question.

– The HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Science, Stigma and Policy- Making.

– Astrophysics and Us: Science in the Media.

– CSI: The Science of Criminal Investigation.

My favourite included 4,000 Planets and Counting and Introduction to Graph Theory.

4,000 Planets and Counting:

Participating in discussions regarding current exoplanet detection techniques: the transit method, direct imaging and radial velocities, highlighted the huge amount of technical labour behind scientific discoveries. Consequently, I felt like I had a duty to support those who write the stories which inspire me. I am now a part of the Galaxy Zoo Project, through which I have helped to classify 50 galaxies thus far. As illustrated YYGS has genuinely inspired me to further my research into my passions.

Introduction to Graph Theory:

Moreover, a seminar on the basics of Graph theory illustrated how multidisciplinary mathematics can be. Graph theory allows us to study atoms in more depth, consequently developing our concept of the cosmos, whilst also being used in sociology when, for example, studying dominance and submission within a group of people. Learning about Euler’s Seven Bridges of Konigsberg illustrated how some scientific discoveries can come from apparent failures. The way I view mathematical relationships has matured as a result and aided me greatly when completing my Further Maths A-level and University applications.

Attending YYGS confirmed my desire to study both physics and maths at university.

On top of the fascinating academics, what made the experience so special was the people. Being thrown into situations in which you are all the minority was unprecedented and challenged the way I saw my national identity. It made me think about the profound beauty in the transcendence of the language of science and maths and the power of shared interests.

FINAL THOUGHTS

YYGS is a once in a lifetime experience and to not apply would be passing it up. We never thought we would be accepted onto this programme but here we are writing this blog about the impact it had.  If we can do it, so can you!

 

 

Inspiring Minds STEM Conference for Year 12 students run by Loughborough University.

This blog posting is written by year 12 student Grace Morgan and describes her experience of attending this year’s Inspiring Minds STEM Conference at Loughborough

I’ve always been passionate about STEM subjects and have known for a long time that I wanted to pursue a STEM university degree but it wasn’t until the start of sixth form that I began to focus on engineering. A great presentation on careers of the future at the Seren Network launch in September inspired me to begin exploring the field of engineering. In my research, I found a free Inspiring Minds STEM Conference for Year 12 students run by Loughborough University. This took place at the end of January and is an annual conference run by the University. 
Open to anyone interested in studying a STEM subject at university, there were opportunities to attend a choice of example lectures and workshops from across the university’s STEM subjects, as well as receiving university application guidance as well as a tour of the campus and facilities.
There was a varied programme across the day with a welcome and graduate destinations presentation, followed by four workshops from a selection of twenty-two, up to six in each workshop slot. I started session one with Chemistry with its impressive real-life applications, followed by a session on personal statements tailored to STEM applications which was really useful. After a free lunch, I focussed on engineering, attending the next session on materials engineering, which I now know is not for me! Saving the best until last, my final session was civil engineering. The conference was about inspiring minds and it certainly inspired mine. The day finished with graduate stories from past alumni and a campus tour. The conference was well organised and so worthwhile attending. I encourage any student interested in STEM to look out for this great opportunity. 
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2018 Seren Network Summer School at Jesus College, University of Oxford

This blog article is written by year 13 student Rianna Man. It describes her experience at the 2018 Seren Network Summer School at Jesus College, University of Oxford.

I’m Rianna, a Year 13 student at Radyr Comprehensive. This August I attended the Jesus College-Seren Summer School at Oxford. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience and I’ve written this blog to tell you a bit more about it.

The programme is a completely free, five day residential long summer course offered at Jesus College, the historically Welsh college in Oxford University. 75 places were offered to Seren Network students from all over Wales who could submit two essays to apply, one about their personal reasons for applying to the course and another about their take on “the meaning of life”- the overarching theme of the summer school.

The summer school was definitely really useful. I had wondered whether I was “Oxbridge material” but also, more recently, if Oxbridge was the right fit for me.

I learned whether or not I would be suited to the tutorial style learning that is specific to Oxbridge universities as we each got to experience a tutorial. This was one of my favourite parts of the summer school. I got to discuss the essay I had written about my chosen prompt:  ‘In what sense, if any, is a freshly cut flower less alive than you are?’ I thought it was fantastic that I could discuss the ideas and research I had done as part of the essay directly with a member of staff at the university. However, I didn’t feel scared or intimidated as there were two other students with me too and we all got to input our ideas and examine our essays.

There was a lot more that I was able to take away from the experience. For instance: admissions advice of the highest quality from Matthew Williams that included invaluable interview practice, handouts from a seminar about “improving bad rhetoric”, and notes from an incredible lecture about medical ethics that caused a few of my friends to shed tears.

There were three groups, a physics/maths group, a law/medicine/science group, and a humanities group. The seminars in these groups were more tailored to personal interests as opposed to the lectures which everyone attended together.

The upside to this was that the range of topics covered was well thought out and that sometimes I found a crossover between my current interests and a presentation about a completely different topic. For instance, the aforementioned medical ethics lecture also highlighted connections to music compositions and interpretations of death through art though presented by a neonatal medical professional. I did really like this multidisciplinary aspect that I think you can look forward to in a majority of university courses.

I would say that I definitely had fun. Everyone was clever but also very down to earth. The environment was also decidedly Welsh, with so many fluent Welsh speakers from around the country. The dining hall was the best place to make new friends and we could go and hang out in the common room in our ‘study periods’ while we slacked off essay writing. There were board games and card games, trash daytime TV shows, pool and table tennis. The last night saw nearly everyone hanging out in the common room with music playing, occasionally going out for late night Mcflurry trips and getting to know the people we hadn’t had the chance to talk to yet. It was a lovely environment.

In my opinion, if you are considering applying to Oxbridge for university, then applying for this summer school is highly recommended. However, even if you are applying to other competitive universities, the broad theme of the week is sure to provide some amazing lectures and seminars that will interest you and be useful for your personal statement or interviews. As food, accommodation and even travel is free, I would say that you definitely have nothing to lose and everything to gain from attending this residential.

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This blog posting is written by year 13 Radyr student Rianna Man. She describes her experience of attending the Yale Young Global Scholars program. This opportunity was provided by a new partnership between the Welsh Government’s Seren Network and Yale University.

 

Hi, I’m Rianna and this summer I attended the Yale Young Global Scholars program (YYGS) in Connecticut, USA. I’m writing this short blog to give an insight into my experience and encourage students to apply to what was one of the best experiences of my life. I can’t even fit all the best bits into this blog without boring you to tears but hopefully I’ve covered most of it to give you a good idea!

 

Who am I?

I’m a 17 year old girl going into Year 13. I took biology, chemistry, maths and art (with WBQ) for AS levels and in my spare time I love drawing and music (you might have seen me in the concerts conducting the orchestra.). When I applied for YYGS, I was thinking about applying for either medicine or architecture for university.

 

What is YYGS?

The program is a two week long course aimed at 15-17 year olds from around the world. It is very established and well attended, with around 250 teens attending each of the six subject specific courses across three fortnight long sessions.

It is an introduction to life at Yale university and includes seminars, lectures, a UN style simulation, and a ‘capstone project’. There is lots more information available on the website, just Google YYGS.

 

How I applied

This year marked the launch of the partnership between the Seren Network and YYGS. The opportunity to attend the $6000 course fully funded by Yale and Welsh government was advertised in Dr Roe’s trusty update emails. It seemed too good to miss, although there was only around a week or so until the deadline. I had to submit one 500 word essay, and two shorter essays around 250 and 100 words. Forms, references, records and financial information were also required. It was stressful and very last minute, I stayed up to write until two hours before the 5 AM deadline. Still, it was a small price to pay for such an amazing experience.

 

The course I applied for

Of the six options, I chose ‘Sustainable Development and Social Entrepreneurship’ (SDSE) because it tied most closely to architecture, which I had explored less compared to medicine. However, I was very indecisive, changing the three ranked options I chose minutes before applying and I was lucky enough to get my first choice.

 

My favourite learning experience

I loved the capstone project. Nearly every night, after dinner, from 6:30-9 pm, our group of 16 students would meet in our basement room and work on our research and presentation. Our instructors Michelle and Rahim were our supportive ‘parents’ who gave us extremely detailed feedback on every submitted essay and donuts on the last day. Under the group umbrella of “Equity and Poverty Alleviation”, my smaller team of four created a presentation of “Empowering the Bottom of the Wealth Pyramid” that looked into sanitation methods that could be used in East African countries. From capstone, I experienced working with strong group to very tight deadlines and writing good quality essays in mere hours. I also made a new family who I missed very much as soon as I left.

 

My favourite non-learning experience

There were some incredible social events scheduled, most being tradition for YYGS. For instance, the talent show, the speaker series, the late night party on the final night, the quiz night, and the library tours. My favourite was probably the ‘family time’ with our ‘family’ of 8. This was another way we were quickly forced to make friends. Our family didn’t play games like some of the others, but we did get ice cream together, chill in the library basement arguing over which education system was better, and visit my favourite building – the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

My least favourite part

Some days I wasn’t in a great state of mind to appreciate the lectures first thing in the morning because I was so tired. I usually need about 9 hours sleep but having essays due in for midnight or staying up gossiping with my suite-mates often meant 2am bedtimes and waking up at 7am. Still, getting to spend more time awake and making the most of my limited time was definitely worth it, in my opinion.

Any regrets?

I wish that I hadn’t gone into the process thinking that I would never attend an American university. Like many, I assumed that the costs would be far too high to even consider and so I didn’t attend the admission talk or panel. It wasn’t until my last day there that one of the instructors (second year Yale students) told me of another instructor who was from Scotland and was able to get huge amounts of financial aid, making the cost equal to that of attending British university. I quickly rushed head first into researching all that I needed to do if I were to apply whilst feeling that it was all a little too late.

 

My advice

I can’t thank anyone involved with the Seren-YYGS partnership enough. I consider myself amongst some of the luckiest teens in the world to have been able to experience the opportunity, practically for free. I made incredible friends around the world and experienced world class education. It is my genuine belief that this is an unmissable opportunity that makes me so passionate to spread the word and encourage all eligible students to apply. My advice is: definitely apply, you will regret it if you don’t at least give it a go!

I also attended the Jesus college summer camp so watch out for the blog about that experience too!

Plus, I will be attending the Seren launch event on September 26th along with some of the other Year 13s who also attended different courses at YYGS. There, we will be able to answer any further questions you have.

Hope to see you there!

Seren Network Summer School at Jesus College, Oxford

This blog posting is written by year 13 student Katie Long.

In the 2017 summer, I attended the Seren Network summer school at Oxford University. It was set up to give Welsh AS level students the opportunity to gain a taster of what life would be like studying at either Oxford or Cambridge, and to give them the confidence to apply there. The event was 4 days long, and we spent 3 nights in the college accommodation. There was no specific subject theme, but is was based round what humanity might be like in the future.

During our time on the summer school, we took part in a variety of lectures and seminars on really interesting topics, and even got to have a go of a tutorial. We had lectures on subjects ranging from exoplanets and artificial intelligence, to dystopian and utopian literature. During the seminars, we looked at different articles, and focused on critical thinking and evaluating what we were reading – these are skills that we were told would be looked for in an interview. A lot of these were subjects we hadn’t looked at in school before, and it was really interesting to get an insight into some of the work done by lecturers there.

Sleeping in the college rooms gave us a really good insight into what life would be like to study there, and gave us a taste of the communal feel of a college setting. It was a really valuable experience and gave us a great base to explore the city during our free time. It was also a great way to make friends, and see some parts of student life that you might not be able to on an open day.

The opportunity to take part in a tutorial was amazing, and helped to dispel so many myths and worries that we might have had about applying. We each wrote a short essay (about 2 pages) about one of a few topics that we were given before we arrived. We had time to complete these while we were there and weren’t expected to do huge amounts of work before we got there. These we then read by the academics, and we had tutorials in groups of 3.

The whole summer school was a really valuable experience and was one of the main reasons that made me decide to apply to Oxford when I got back to school. I would definitely encourage everyone to apply to go on this summer school, it was a great experience!

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Headstart taster courses for students interested in STEM subjects

This latest blog posting is written by year 13 student Kate Mingay

The Headstart programme is designed to inspire teenagers to pursue a career in engineering and STEM subjects. The programme offers a variety of courses across the country for year 11 and 12 students. In year 11 the Inspire course (3 days) is purely for girls but in year 12 the Insight course (4 days) is for both girls and boys.

In year 11 I attended the Inspire course at Coventry University. It was a general course, giving me a great flavour of the different types of careers available in the STEM subjects. During my time on this course we worked on activities and challenges based on different careers including civil engineering, renewable energy, computer science, material engineering, mechanical engineering. All these challenges had real life application. For example, in one task we created a type of renewable energy that could be used in a remote African village. These activities highlighted to me how I could use my A-level subjects in the real world and what opportunities are available when studying STEM subjects.

Before going on this course, I was nervous that I would be on my own and I wouldn’t fit in with everyone else, but I can honestly say that both the students and staff were so friendly and welcoming that my anxieties were quickly resolved. I had great fun and made new friends straight away. Everyone was in the same boat and we all wanted to meet new and likeminded people.

During the day we completed activities and had talks but in the evening, we also had fun! One night we played dodge ball in the university sports facilities, fair to say it did get competitive! Then on another evening we had a BBQ, ice-cream and played sports on the field. There wasn’t a moment that we weren’t kept busy.

Over night supervisors stayed with us in the accommodation as well as during the day to keep us organised and stop anyone getting lost, or in my case rescue me when I locked myself out of my room with no key-oops! The supervisors were all really friendly and some of them were studying at the university, so it was useful to talk about their courses and get advice from them.

I would recommend this course to any girls in year 11 who enjoy STEM subjects. I learnt so much about different careers options and it confirmed that I wanted to pursue a STEM career.

The following year, year 12, I was really keen to attend the Insight course to help me decide what course to study at university. I chose a general engineering course at Salford University as I was still unsure which career path I wanted to pursue, but there are specific courses available e.g. civil engineering. The course I attended was for girls only. The Insight course provided a lot more freedom in the areas we wanted to focus at whilst on the course. I decided to complete a project based on medical engineering. Not only did we get to work with specialists in their fields on this project, but we also attended trips including visiting a prosthetics company observing the process of designing and making to fitting a lower limb prosthesis. Although we were in groups and working in teams for a lot of the time there was also plenty of opportunity to socialise with others on the course.

In the evenings there were many social activities arranged to keep us entertained. One evening we visited Concorde at Manchester airport, had a guided tour and even sat inside it! On the final evening we had a formal three course dinner which was very fancy and an enjoyable end to the course. We were also able to stay up to date with all our reality TV with 30 girls crowded around one laptop! Again on this course I made some great friends who I am still in contact with. Two of the girls had travelled from their homes in France and Luxembourg as the course has such a good reputation and recognised by universities.

Both courses have helped me to decide that medical engineering is the course I would apply for at university. An added bonus to attending the courses is that in the UCAS application process I have been able to demonstrate my genuine interest and passion in the subject, highlighting key experiences from the courses and the relevance to my chosen degree course.