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University-style tutorials for top-performing students at Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech

A group of high-ability students at Thomas Clarkson Academy have been working with a PhD mentor to give them the experience of university-style learning.

The Scholars programme is an academic programme run by The Brilliant Club, which aims to widen access for outstanding students to the country’s top universities.

Following the launch event at the University of Cambridge last month, the Year 10 and 12 students are taking part in a number of weekly university-style tutorials with Natalie Lamb, a researcher at the University of Sheffield studying for a PhD in Civil Engineering and Microbiology.

Natalie, who works with Anglian Water, is delivering a programme entitled ‘From distant rivers to your kitchen sink: The chemical, microbiological and civil engineering journey of drinking water treatment’.

Students are looking at water purification and effect of purification on the environment, with the topics designed to stretch and challenge students. Each week, they are set homework and at the end of the programme in December, they will complete a final assignment of 2,500 words, which will be marked in university style, with students receiving a 1st, 2.1, 2.2and so on.

As part of the launch event, students were given an overview of the programme, a tour of the university and joined a tutor session where they looked at skills such as note-taking.

It is the first time TCA has been part of a programme such as this and Preetha Raj, TCA’s head of science, said she is keen to ensure higher-ability students are challenged.

“This is about inspiring and motivating students to think about applying to the top universities,” Mrs Raj said. “Through the Scholars programme, they’re benefitting from learning the academic skills that are needed so they’ll be equipped if they do go on to university. The feedback from students has been really positive and they’re finding the sessions useful.”

Sixth form student Harry Preston is among those taking part in the programme. “It’s been good to learn more by discussion and to try a different style of learning,” he said. “I’m enjoying it and Natalie has changed my perspective on things, such as approaches to learning. Working in smaller groups means you can share your ideas easily. The sessions have been really interesting as it’s more applied science, rather than theory. It’s good to have a new challenge outside of the norm.

“It’s also made the prospect of university less daunting because now I know what to expect, so I’ll feel more comfortable when I go.”

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