Sidney's Schools Liaison Officer has worked incredibly hard this year to transform Sidney's typical outreach calendar into a series of virtual events. Stuart is on hand to tell us more.

Although there has been an eerie calm around the College courts over the past few months, the Admissions and Outreach team have been busily welcoming virtual visitors to Sidney during the summer.  

Earlier in the year, we were busy moving the College’s outreach and widening participation activities online so that we could continue to provide information and assistance to state school pupils across our link areas and beyond. In August, we hosted two online summer schools that between them saw over 300 students attend academic and admissions sessions delivered by students and Fellows of Sidney and our partner Colleges.  

The first of these, the LPN summer school, is a long-standing feature of the College’s summer calendar. This event is organised by Sidney in collaboration with Christ’s and Murray Edwards. The event welcomes high-performing state school students from areas of low progression to Higher Education for a taste of university-level academic study as well as admissions sessions and social events. Typically this would be a three-night residential event, but this year the entire thing moved online, with everything from academic sessions to College tours and even an online Escape Room being delivered via Zoom.

Sidney's virtual LPN event


Despite the challenges of online delivery, the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive, and all of the 130 Year 11 students who participated will receive ongoing support over the coming year and will be invited to attend a follow-up residential in Cambridge next summer.  

Elsewhere, we have also delivered another two-day online summer school, this time for those students from our HE+ partner schools in Wigan, Warrington and Stoke-on-Trent.

Both summer schools aimed to encourage students to pursue applications to selective universities like Cambridge, whether that be by demystifying the admissions process, providing tasters of university-level study, or by just letting them meet staff and students. The fact that so many students highlighted in their feedback the friendly and engaging academics that they met on the summer schools is testament to this!  

Earlier in the summer, the July Open Days were run online for the first time. Thanks to the hard work and collaboration of admissions staff in Sidney and the central University the event was a great success, with hundreds of prospective students from the UK and abroad attending Sidney’s webinars to pitch questions our Fellows, current undergraduates and Admissions Director. 

Combined with our fabulous (and timely) new website and Sidney YouTube channel populated with videos made by our staff and students, Sidney has adapted to the new post-COVID-19 landscape and we are confident that in the year ahead we will continue to provide robust support to students and teachers from the UK and abroad.  

This confidence is, as ever, partially founded upon the continuing support that we receive from the College’s Fellowship, and undergraduate and postgraduate communities, whose enthusiasm and generosity have been the foundation stones of our activities this summer and for which we are ever grateful.

Finally, in the coming weeks we will be welcoming more virtual visitors to Sidney for the September Open Days. These events will run on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 September 2020, and are targeted at prospective undergraduate students looking to make an application for 2021 entry (or deferred entry for 2022). For more information on the events planned across these two days, please visit our Virtual Open Day web page.

Written by: Dr Stuart Palmer, Schools Liaison Officer at Sidney Sussex College

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