Last week, during an inspirational Evening of Celebration to mark another successful year of the Scholars Programme in Swindon, 240 guests, including Scholars, their families, school staff, dignitaries, supporters and Villiers Park Educational Trust staff were in attendance.
During the evening 106 students in Years 10 to 13, attending six local schools and colleges, were awarded a Gold Standard for their determination to achieve specific personal and academic goals as well as demonstrating educational progress, achievement and excellence.
From the Gold Standard recipients twelve students were shortlisted for the prestigious Mike Baker Scholar of the Year Award* which recognises and rewards those Scholars that have demonstrated exemplary attainment, attitude, manners, contribution, attendance and progress during the academic year. Three Scholars from each year group were shortlisted and on the night, in front of friends, family and local dignitaries the ‘and the winner is … ‘ announcements were made by James Phipps, CEO at Excalibur Group.
· The Year 10 Award went to Lakshya Gopal, The Commonweal School, who said on receiving the award, “I feel really, really happy. I’m naturally shy but I feel much more confident thanks to Villiers Park.”
· Chloe Newbury, Churchfields Academy received the Year 11 Award.
· The Year 12 Award was presented to Joshua Drinkwater, Lydiard Park Academy, who told us he feels really happy and that the award was unexpected, “Medicine Society has helped me so much. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way, especially my Learning Mentors.”
· Finally the Year 13 Award went to Charlotte Osborne, New College.
Whilst presenting the awards James Phipps commented, “As part of our ongoing involvement with the Swindon Scholars Programme, Excalibur are delighted to be sponsoring the Swindon 2016 Celebration event. The Scholars Programme is a unique initiative that we really believe in and the work that Villiers Park undertake in helping students is essential to provide a better future for less advantaged young people in our community.
“Excalibur wants to do as much as we can to make a difference by breaking down barriers to success and paving the way to a positive future. Our recent Swindon Apprentice of The Year even came from the programme.”
He went on to say, “There’s an incredible set of talented people in this room and if any one of you came to me for a job I would be happy to have you because you’re amazing – the best of the best.”
The evening also celebrated the achievements of all Scholars some of whom provided entertaining and inspiring presentations reflecting on their experiences and successes during the year:
“Villiers Park helped prepare me for university and has changed my life.” Ismail, Year 13 Scholar
“Villiers Park gave us opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have had. Like visiting universities and work experience” Holly Snowden, Year 11 Scholar
“Villiers Park helped me discover I really loved Shakespeare.” Ellie Lovejoy, Scholar Alumna
The local Programme Manager, Learning Mentors and Richard Gould, Chief Executive at Villiers Park Educational Trust, also spoke during the evening. Richard said: “We are delighted that the Scholars Programme is having such a positive impact on the aspirations and attainment of young people in Swindon. This event is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the progress that our Scholars have made. The success of the programme is down to the Scholars putting in the hard work and commitment required to succeed and through the collaboration of students, their families, their schools, our partners and of course Villiers Park Educational Trust.”
The event was also attended by local dignitaries including James Phipps (CEO, Excalibur Group); Nicholas Baring Esq, CBE; Paddy Bradley (Director, Swindon and Wiltshire LEP); Graeme Gibson (RSM UK); Mike Godfrey OBE (Business West); Jamie Hill (Positive Media); Natalie Hillman (RSM UK); Sharon Omer-Kaye (RSM UK); Chris Scrace (Office for Fair Access); and Councillor Eric Shaw (Mayor of Swindon).
“We are delighted to sponsor Villiers Park Educational Trust and add our support to help young people in our community, often from lower income backgrounds, to reach their full potential. Having met many of the Scholars and learned about their achievements, I would be honoured to receive job applications from them as I feel they would add tremendous value to our business.” Sharon Omer-Kaye, Managing Partner, RSM UK Tax and Accounting Limited
The Scholars Programme, part of Villiers Park Educational Trust’s commitment to improve social mobility in the UK, is now coming to the end of its seventh year in Swindon, working with bright students from lower income backgrounds at St Joseph’s Catholic College, Lydiard Park Academy, Churchfields Academy, The Commonweal School, New College and Cirencester College. The programme provides ongoing, comprehensive support for Scholars during a free four-year programme that runs from Year 10 to Year 13. It aims to raise the attainment and aspirations of the students and empower them with the skills (both academic and personal) to enable them to gain places at leading universities or other centres of excellence and to thrive once there.
The Celebration Event marked the graduation of the fourth intake of Year 10 students in 2012 and was a very proud moment for the Scholars, their families, their schools, Scholar Programme supporters and also for the Villiers Park Team.