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Oxbridge offers go to girls in 2021

March is Women’s History Month and Monday 8 March marks International Women’s Day 2021 (IWD 2021). One of the core missions of IWD 2021 is ‘to shine a spotlight on activity encouraging and uplifting women to pursue goals without bias or barriers’. This article is about six Eastbourne College girls proving that good co-educational / mixed schooling is an excellent environment for girls to achieve at the highest level.

It goes without saying that competition for Oxbridge places is fierce. The universities receive, on average, between five and seven applications for every place available. To make matters more challenging, according to their 2019 admissions reports, around 69 per cent of Oxford’s UK offers go to students from the state sector. The same is true for Cambridge, give or take a few per cent, and this year was no exception.

Proving that girls can thrive in a supportive co-educational setting, enter (stage left) Isabel, Isobel, Katherine, Natasha, Sandra, and Tianlu, six girls who just received the equivalent of Mr Wonka’s Golden Ticket, an offer to study at one of these prestigious higher education establishments. What stands out about this group of girls is the sheer breadth of subject areas in the places offered.

isabel stead oxbridgeIsabel

Local Eastbournian Isabel enrolled into the sixth form at Eastbourne College after many happy years at local state-maintained school Cavendish. She studies A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Further Mathematics, Physics, and Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), and supplements her STEM focus by being a member of the College’s large Pre-Medicine School. Isabel applied for the Professor Soddy Award (a 100 per cent funded place for particularly talented pupils from state education) and was successful.

I moved to Eastbourne College from state education for sixth form. I never thought I would have the opportunity to study at the College but receiving the Professor Soddy Scholarship made it possible. The highly tailored timetable has really helped me focus on my core subjects and my love of maths was a huge factor in applying to Cambridge to study Medicine. I still can’t believe I got a place and I’d like to say a massive thank you to all the staff who helped me along the way.

Isabel will join Trinity College Cambridge this year.

isobel mitchell oxbridgeIsobel

Classmate Isobel, from Bexhill, is also a fellow Professor Soddy Award holder and studies Biology, Chemistry, Further Mathematics, and EPQ. Another STEM girl, Isabel found her spark in the sciences.

After receiving the Professor Soddy Scholarship Award I joined Eastbourne College at sixth form. I study biology, chemistry, maths, further maths (plus EPQ), so a science-related course was always something I was passionate about studying at university. In my opinion, Eastbourne College isn’t like a usual college. There is a lot of structure and the teachers give the right amount of push to help you achieve and exceed your goals. Through studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge, there are lots of possible career paths. At the moment I like the idea of going into laboratory research.

Isobel will take up her place at Homerton College Cambridge to read Natural Sciences and likes the idea of going into laboratory research.

Like most pupils with aspirations to study at either Oxbridge or other universities in the UK and US, engaging in the creative arts often provides a natural diversion from the rigours of academic preparation; pupil wellbeing is not a separate initiative bolted onto the core curriculum, but an inclusion policy woven into the fabric of the day-to-day.

katherine linaker oxbridgeKatherine

Cello playing music scholar Katherine regularly performs at the many concerts the College puts on each term and has made use of the raft of remote creative arts opportunities during lockdown to continue wowing the school community. Being fluent in English and Russian, as well as having studied French and Mandarin, she has always been passionate about languages. For Katherine, A-levels and activities at Eastbourne College include French, Greek, History, Instrumental Music, and Latin. She was over the moon with her Oxbridge offer,

I moved to Eastbourne College at sixth form from another independent school. Being fluent in English and Russian, as well as having studied French and Mandarin, has meant I have always been passionate about languages. I had always set my sights on Oxford, but you can never take an offer for granted. I received the offer while in my lesson and wanted to jump up and down with excitement. I am very happy with the offer from Oxford to read Arabic and Islamic Studies. In the future I really want to use languages for a good cause, like being a diplomat in the middle east. This could really help make that happen.

Katherine will join Pembroke College Oxford to read Arabic and Islamic Studies.

natasha symes oxbridgeNatasha

Natasha came from St Andrew’s Prep (another school in the Eastbourne College Inc charity) and has been at the College since Year 9. She was awarded a drama and then an academic scholarship as her linguistic talents emerged. She chose Classical Civilisation, English Literature, History, and Philosophy & Theology for A-level. Outside of subscribing to the many performing arts opportunities on offer, Natasha contributes to the local community in myriad ways through the service at school programme. She has been offered a place at Queens’ College Cambridge.

I am so excited at the prospect of studying Anglo Saxon Norse and Celtic at Cambridge. I’ve always been interested in the early middle ages; it is such a culturally-rich period and the Cambridge course uniquely offer options for the interdisciplinary study of literature, history and language. I am particularly fascinated by the way people tell stories to make sense of the world and our place in it. I do not yet know what I will do post university, but avenues such as heritage, conservation and archaeology really interest me. Thank you so much to all my teachers for helping me get this far!

sandra fuhrmann oxbridgeSandra

Oxbridge entrant Sandra hails from Germany and came to Eastbourne one a one-year placement to study at another school in the Eastbourne Schools Partnership (ESP). She enjoyed it so much she stayed on. What started as a twelve-month UK education experience, led to an offer to join Eastbourne College’s sixth form and an offer from Cambridge to study French and Spanish where she will be based at Pembroke College. Sandra continues to enjoy the independence that Eastbourne College’s collegiate-style boarding system provides and speaks highly of the school’s Oxbridge preparation programme.

I had been a student at a German state school for nine years. Then I attended a maintained school in Eastbourne for a year abroad to do my GCSEs, which I completed in one year [instead of two]. I only thought I might be away from Germany for one year but after being introduced to Eastbourne College through the ESP I realised what a fantastic opportunity I had in front of me through an amazing boarding experience and smaller class sizes. To come to England at the age of fifteen was my best decision so far. I have used every opportunity offered to broaden my horizons. I have been passionate about languages since a young age and living abroad strengthened that. After participating in the extra Saturday sessions, this reinforced my love for languages and literature, and through the Oxbridge preparation programme the College provides I decided to go for it. I am delighted to go to Cambridge to study a course that covers both language and literature. In the future I would like to be a foreign correspondent to the BBC or teach to help other students.

tianlu wang oxbridgeTianlu

Tianlu is one of the top 0.1 per cent of pupils in the UK who achieved a clean sweep of 9s and A*s at GCSE. Having aced no less than 13 subjects, this academic and music scholar went on to study Economics, Further Mathematics, History, and EPQ. Tianlu continues to thrive, embracing the endless horizons and endless opportunities available to her six days a week. As a day girl, she has everything the boarders do save for the bed, and takes advantage of the optional, guided Saturday morning enrichment sessions which include a full programme of academic, creative, and co-curricular pursuits. Tianlu’s sisters both went to Cambridge and she had similar ambitions.

I am delighted to have received an offer from Cambridge, and I am eager to extend my studies in Economics, especially at such a prestigious university. The admissions process was incredibly gruelling, but undoubtedly worth it for this positive result. Both of my older sisters attended Cambridge, and I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to do so as well.

Tianlu will be based at Murray Edwards College later this year.

headmaster’s comment

tom lawsonAs an advocate of mixed education ‘with the vigour of a convert’, Eastbourne College’s headmaster, Tom Lawson, sees the girls’ success as a by-product of delivering a gold-standard education that moves with the times.

These six women of the future are role models for pupils at Eastbourne College, demonstrating what can be achieved by accessing the inclusive, balanced and ambitious education provided here. I am proud that we, yet again, have proven that happy, healthy co-education is a brilliant environment for girls to achieve at the highest possible level in STEM subjects as well as across a wide range of humanities.