Harris Experience Advanced Spring Summary

The Harris Experience Advanced (HEA) is a Harris Federation Sixth Form initiative. It is primarily in place to prepare students to make competitive applications to top Russell Group universities as well as medical, dentistry and veterinary science schools.

The programme is aimed at our most academic students who have achieved outstanding grades at GCSE or who prove themselves to be making outstanding academic progress early in Year 12 and maintain this throughout their sixth form life. Please find a summary of our activity over the Spring term:

The news in early January that a number of HEA students had made successful applications for University College London’s highly competitive Uni-Link scheme signalled a successful beginning to what has been a highly productive Spring Term for all those involved with the HEA.

Whilst our Year 13s knuckled down in preparation for the summer’s exams, Year 12s continued to enrich their academic profile and hone their university choices through a variety of HEA-arranged extra-curricular experiences. Medicine hopefuls from this group were given an early dose of insight-filled information in January from Imperial College’s medical society at an ‘Applying to Read Medicine’ talk; insights which were then complimented by a series of practical medical workshops with one of our key partners, MeDCAS, later in the month. This saw students attend two sessions focussed on developing the nuanced ethical nous and practical skills expected of medicine applicants; the latter strand revolving around hands-on exercises in key medical skills, such as suturing and CPR.

 Meanwhile, high-performing HEA social science and humanities students began a course exploring the History of Capitalism with renowned think tank The Legatum Institute. Exclusive to the HEA, this ongoing venture is seeing selected students – excelling in history, economics, politics, geography and sociology – attend a year-long series of lectures and seminars delivered by revered economic historians – from universities including Oxbridge and Harvard – at the Legatum Institute’s premises in Mayfair. The first lecture from Dr Phillip Kay of Oxford University on Rome’s Economic Revolution proved a challenging and thought-provoking introduction to the series, with students returning the following week to discuss the topic with Dr Kay and Legatum’s research team in the Institute’s conference room. A process replicated in March with David Abalufia Professor of Mediterranean History at Cambridge University –who closed proceedings on his seminar investigating the themes surrounding his lecture on Global Trade: The Beginnings with encouraging praise for the students’ ‘excellent’, ‘perceptive’ and ‘challenging’ questions.

With one of the aims of this endeavour concerned with introducing students to the sort of topics and style of intellectual discussion found at top Russell Group universities, it was heartening to see HEA Year 12s from a variety of subject areas gain a similarly instructive and illuminative experience when they took part in Cambridge University’s ‘Shadowing Scheme’ in early February. Organised by the university’s Student Union, students spent the day shadowing an undergraduate reading a degree in their preferred subject area; attending lectures and supervisions, whilst getting a taste of the wider social, sporting and cultural opportunities on offer too. Affirming the gracious – and highly appreciated – good-will of the Cambridge undergrads involved, many bid farewell to their HEA ‘shadows’ with the offer to mentor them through the application process this coming September as well.

As the sun set on a day of learning for most, in late February the entire HEA Year 12 cohort assembled at Harris City Academy Crystal Palace for a series of presentations from science, humanities and social science students based at King’s College London, University College London, and Oxford University on what they and other top universities expect from applicants. In line with each speaker’s emphasis on the necessity of extra-curricular learning, these talks were followed by a series of subject-specific seminars led by expert teaching staff from across the Harris Federation who sought to stretch students’ subject-knowledge whilst also proffering cutting edge debates to explore further in their own time too.

Marking the beginning of another exclusive HEA partnership, on the 25th of February twelve of our natural science degree hopefuls visited King’s College Hospital as members of a newly formed Student Advisory Board for researchers in respiratory physiology at King’s College London’s Muscle Lab (KML). After hearing about the academic journeys and research backgrounds of the researchers, students then contributed their ideas on KML’s Web-strategy before discussing and posing questions about careers and opportunities in medical research more generally; a mutually beneficial dialogue between leading academics and more able A-Level students mirrored during a meeting at Harris Girls’ Academy East Dulwich in March between London School of Economics’ Dr Suzi Hall and local HEA social science students. With Dr Hall’s research into the complex economic and cultural value of Rye Lane, Peckham, as the topic for discussion the success of the event for all involved was captured with LSE’s exalting coverage of the workshop on their news-page,  which, alongside KML’s plaudits from the first Student Advisory board meeting, serves as grounds for encouragement in our continued efforts to build productive links with world-leading universities such as LSE and King’s College.

As March progressed, HEA students busily responded to the weekly HEA updates reaching their inboxes on the wealth of extra-curricular opportunities available to them within and beyond London, with many attending public lectures and securing places on University of London Taster Days; Oxford Pathways Study Days; Cambridge Subject Masterclasses; and the Social Mobility Foundation’s highly competitive Aspiring Professionals programme. The bevy of College-organised study days and residential summer placements on offer at Oxbridge were likewise taken up enthusiastically, whilst medicine candidates looked to augment their experience further; securing volunteering and work placements at a variety of charitable and healthcare institutions in their local areas. With the Easter break fast-approaching, fingers crossed as students submitted applications for summer opportunities too, including: Head Start Engineering, Sutton Trust and UNIQ Oxford University Summer Schools; Nuffield STEM Summer Research Placements; LSE Choice; UCL Summer Challenge; and courses on Villiers Park’s Inspiring Excellence Programme

The final week of term witnessed the first meeting for the HEA Oxbridge group (those predicted three or more As at AS-Level) who, having heard the academic journeys and experiences of Oxbridge-educated Harris teaching staff, fulfilled seminars with Harris subject experts in maths and humanities, as well as social and natural sciences – designed to foster the supple thinking skills and broad subject-knowledge Oxbridge seek in applicants. Those keen to read engineering amongst this group were fortunate to have two experts in aeronautics from Imperial College London lead their seminar who introduced them to novel concepts and exacting conundrums unique to the field.

Buoyed by this second seminar session the final Thursday of March saw the students involved attend an application conference organised by both Oxford and Cambridge at Epsom Downs Racecourse, which provided up-to-date information on the application and admissions procedure at both institutions for all subjects, whilst also offering a window onto student life at Oxbridge more generally; the bus-ride home buzzing with the students’ inspired and insight-full chatter imbuing the last event of another industrious HEA term with a suitably animated and aspirational atmosphere.

Our Autumn Summary can be found here

If you would like to keep up-to-date with all ongoing Harris Experience Advanced happenings, you can find us on twitter as well: https://twitter.com/HFexperience