In the Spring term of 2017-18, 36 pupils from two schools in the area participated in The Scholars Programme, an academic university access programme run by The Brilliant Club. Pupils from Caedmon College Whitby and Graham School went on two visits to highly selective universities, worked with a PhD researcher on an exciting, cutting-edge topic, and completed challenging final assignments, pitched at one key stage above where they are currently at.

The Brilliant Club is an award-winning, independently-evaluated charity that exists to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds that progress to highly-selective universities. It does this by mobilising the PhD community to share its expertise with state schools. The Scholars Programme recruits PhD researchers, trains them as university access professionals and places them as tutors in schools to deliver programmes of university style tutorials to small groups of high potential pupils. Pupils study academic subjects based on their PhD tutor’s research, completing weekly homework assignments and a final written assignment. Each programme starts and finishes with a trip to one of our partner universities, where pupils have a campus tour, meet undergraduates and receive guidance from university admissions staff. The Scholars Programme is available in all non-selective primary schools, secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

For the pupils from Graham and Caedmon, their Scholars Programme journey began with a launch trip at the University of York in January, where they received information, advice and guidance from the university, and had the chance to look around on a tour of the campus. Over the weeks that followed, both schools worked with a PhD researcher, also from the University of York, on one of two courses – “Climate change adaptation in Eastern Africa” which had an enrivonmental focus, or “Should a person change the way they speak to get a job? “, a socio-linguistics programme.

They produced 2000 word final assignments and graduated the programme at the University of Leeds or Durham University in May.

The tutors who worked in these two schools were extremely impressed with the commitment, energy, and resilience demonstrated by the participating pupils.  Rebecca Newman, who worked with twelve pupils at Graham School, had the following comment about their progress through the course: “The development in the pupils’ skills and understanding over the short course was astounding. They were able to reflect upon complex challenges and offer excellent insights. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the essays as they were thoughtful and diverse in their view points”.

The Scholars Programme is aimed at high-potential pupils and teachers are encouraged to select those who will benefit most from the programme. As a minimum, The Brilliant Club requires that 55% of pupils on the programme meet one of three measures: pupil premium eligibility, no parental history of Higher Education, or residing in the lowest two quintiles of the IDACI. Caedmon College Whitby and Graham School participated in The Scholars Programme in collaboration with FutureHY NCOP, however, schools usually fund the programme through Pupil Premium funding. The per pupil contribution is £160.

Sign up for The Scholars Programme 2018-19 is now open – the Autumn term is full, but The Brilliant Club will be working with KS4 and KS5 pupils in the Spring term, and KS2 and KS3 pupils in the Summer term.  To find out more, please contact Dr Natalie Day, Area Director for the North of England at

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