Last Friday was a full day of access activity at Somerville, with the arrival of 40 Year 9 pupils from West London for a modern languages event.
The day was coordinated by Lampton School in Hounslow, and was part of raft of activities run by an initiative that partners independent and state schools. The purpose of the partnership is to raise standards and aspirations for pupils, to encourage the study of languages at A-level, university and beyond, and to show how studying languages is an excellent preparation for future careers (and life!).
It was a jam-packed schedule for the day. After a welcome presentation from me, we paid a visit the Ashmolean and the Taylorian (Oxford’s modern languages library) before lunch. Then after lunch they had tours of the College with some current undergraduates, before splitting into three groups for a one-hour language session with Oxford tutors. Dr Simon Kemp and Dr Almut Suerbaum ran sessions in French and German respectively, while Dr Kerstin Hoge from St Hilda’s very kindly came along to run a linguistics session.The day closed with a Q&A session with the undergraduates to find out what life at Oxford is all about.
It was a long way for the pupils to come – some had been travelling since 6.30 in the morning because of difficult transport connections – so I was pleased to see the enthusiasm that they arrived with. It’s a crucial time for them as they choose their GCSE options and, as one of the teachers who accompanied them commented to me, if they give up a language at this stage, they’re very unlikely to be able to pick it up again. So I hope that this event has helped to encourage them to value languages – and, who knows, perhaps they’ll be back at the Taylorian in a few years’ time.