"Why I'm a CoachBright Coach": Meet one of our oxford volunteers

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In January, CoachBright will be launching our first ever programmes outside of London. One in Exeter at Isca Academy and the other in Oxfordshire partnering with Oxford University supporting 34 local pupils. In preparation, our coach Jessica Keating, a 2nd Year Oxford university student gives her perspective on why she joined us …

It began when an email pinged into my inbox calling for volunteers to work with local pupils. Six weeks on and I’m a fully trained CoachBright coach ready to meet my coachees, two Year 11 students, in January. Some of my family and friends, however, have been asking me what the point is and why I’m so willing to give up my time. Hopefully this blog post will provide some answers to my motivations particularly the role of widening participation, access to university, and CoachBright.

All I was thinking was that nobody in my family had been to university and I was very aware of this. My future was unknown, but at that point I didn’t think it would involve going to university and getting a degree.
                                                            Jess enjoying Oxford Uni life

                                                          Jess enjoying Oxford Uni life

Let’s start by rewinding to 16-year old me. I was about halfway through Year 12 studying for my AS Levels and was sick of being invited to open days and listening to people talk about university. All I was thinking was that nobody in my family had been to university and I was very aware of this. My future was unknown, but at that point I didn’t think it would involve going to university and getting a degree.

My outlook changed rapidly when my Head of Sixth Form invited me for a chat and told me about a summer school at Oxford called UNIQ. I applied within hours of the deadline but it was Oxford, so what hope was there for someone like me? To my surprise, I did get a place on the Geography summer school and spent a week in Oxford in July. It totally changed my life, and I can say that now as I write this in Jesus College library. What changed for me was that I realised my potential and learnt what could be available to me if I had some more confidence. Though this won’t be the same for all pupils, what is crucial is having people around you who support and challenge you and accompany you along the way to becoming self-confident. This, to me, is what a CoachBright coach can bring to a student.

So there’s the story behind why I want to volunteer my time to help GCSE students. But why did I specifically want to become a CoachBright coach? CoachBright’s mission is coaching children to become independent and resilient learners. Personally, I want to be that new presence in a student’s life that helps them work towards their own goals and encourages self-development and self-confidence. It can be very difficult for students to feel valued in an education system that places them in large classes with very little one-on-one interaction. Being a coach works towards remedying this, and providing vital and focused sessions that allow the student to develop new skills.

What is crucial is having people around you who support and challenge you and accompany you along the way to becoming self-confident. This, to me, is what a CoachBright coach can bring to a student.

CoachBright, for me, ticks all the boxes that I think education access initiatives should have – it focuses on student improvement while creating a new dynamic outside of the education bubble. It generates a new ethos amongst its’ students that targets their self-confidence and willingness to accept responsibility for their learning. It keeps students as the major drivers in their progress with the ball being fully placed in their court. Equally, as a second year university student I’m still in a relatable position to a GSCE student – hopefully it will be easier for them to talk to me rather than someone in a position of authority, such as teachers.  

Overall, it does what I think students need to think more about: it aims to increase participation in top level universities through a drive towards self-confidence and realising academic potential. Although I have yet to begin coaching, I am already excited for my future involvement with CoachBright and to meet my coachees in January.