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Sleeping through tornadoes and the plague

The first ‘graduates’ of an innovative Fife schools initiative presented their research projects to the University of St Andrews yesterday (Tuesday 10 May 2005), with three lucky pupils being awarded for the best project.

Thought to be the first of its kind in Scotland, the pilot project – Working Together To Improve – aims to raise Kirkcaldy High School pupils’ aspirations to enter higher education on leaving school.

The S3 pupils are guaranteed direct entry to the University’s General degree, provided they meet the University’s admissions criteria.

The 26 pupils involved received a certificate and the three prize winners – Sean Fisher, Siobhan Morris, Elaine Innes – gave a five minute presentation on their work. The threesome were awarded for their projects on Tornadoes and Hurricanes, The Plague in Edinburgh and Sleep respectively. Siobhan was awarded the £100 first prize, while Elaine and Sean were each awarded a £50 runners up prize.

Access Development Officer Sarah Morrison was on the judging panel. She said:

“Judging the projects was incredibly difficult as the standard was so high. We set a very tough challenge and the students rose to it magnificently. What we have to remember is that these pupils are only 14, yet they have produced work of a greater length than many undergraduate students have done. Although we had to select three winners in the end, all 25 pupils involved have done outstandingly well.”

The programme is targeted at the School’s top 14-15 year olds who are academically capable of coming to a university like St Andrews but who, for various reasons, may not normally have considered applying here.

One of the most effective ways of getting young people to engage in higher education is to give them the opportunity to interact with students. With this in mind, the University has employed students from relevant disciplines to act as 1:1 role models and mentors for the pupils.

Pupils chose the subject they wanted to work on and, with the support of their student mentor, completed a 3000 word report and delivered a Power point presentation to a panel comprising University staff and Kirkcaldy High School teachers as well as students and peers. Mentors and teachers provide support and advice but, ultimately, pupils are in control of the research, giving them an advance taste of the responsibility and freedom of university-style learning.

As well as being in regular email contact, pupils and their undergraduate mentors met monthly in St Andrews, allowing the pupils to become familiar with the University environment in a relaxed, informal way.

One of the student mentors, Lee Kane, who is in 4th year studying French and Social Anthropology, said:

“For most of us, the Working Together To Improve project was a chance to participate in the exchange of knowledge, from mentor to pupil. What we have come to realise is that this process is very much a two-way affair. We have all learned so much.”

It is hoped that the project will be repeated, and possibly extended, next year.

Further information on the initiative is available from Sarah Morrison on 01334 462279 or email smm21@st-andrews.ac.uk.

ENDS

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

AN IMAGE OF THE WINNING STUDENTS IS AVAILABLE BY EMAIL – PLEASE CALL 01334 462529 / 467227.

CAPTION (Left to right): Elaine Innes (runner up), Stephen Magee (University Vice-Principal (External Relations), Siobhan Morris (winner), Sean Fisher (runner up) and Mrs Gwen Kinghorn (KHS Headteacher).

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information, please contact Claire Grainger / Gayle Cook, Press Officers – 01334 462530 / 467227. Ref: working to improve WINNERS 110505.doc View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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