North East Connected

Students excel at The Brilliant Club

A group of diligent and dedicated Year 12 students, from Richmond Sixth Form College, have graduated from The Brilliant Club, a charity which aims to widen access for outstanding students in non-selective state schools to the UK’s most-selective universities. The students’ hard work was rewarded, following a four-month study programme, which culminated in them submitting a final assignment for assessment.

The Brilliant Club mobilises the PhD community to share its academic prowess with students through a series of challenging activities. In January, the eight students enjoyed a launch trip to St Chad’s College, Durham University, which included a tour of the College with a current undergraduate, a visit to the cathedral, a study skills session and the students’ first tutorial with their PhD tutor, Hannah Martin from Northumbria University. While at St Chad’s College, the students met with ex-student Ben Rainbow who is in his 3rd year there studying Computer Science. They were able to hear first-hand what it is like to study at Durham University. The meeting was made all the more special as Ben also completed a similar Brilliant Club project when he was at Richmond School and Sixth Form College.

For the following 6 weeks, the students worked with Hannah on a project titled ‘Riot, rebellion and the racialisation of disorder: rethinking traditional historical narratives.’ Hannah visited the students 4 more times in College to deliver further university-style tutorials.

Hannah is a historian of race and migration in the North East of England in the interwar period and is completing her doctorate at Northumbria University. She specialises in the everyday experience of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Seafarers living and working in the port towns across the North East. Hannah said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my placement at Richmond Sixth Form College. The students engaged with some very complex ideas and theoretical concepts and produced excellent final assignments which were of a standard I would expect from university undergraduate students.

“The students arrived at every tutorial with a genuine interest and engaged exceptionally with the material being taught. I am impressed by their drive and motivation to have been able to produce their final assignments in amongst all of the current challenges we are facing. The students have demonstrated great academic potential throughout the Scholars Program and I wish them all the best for their futures”

Liam McCarthy, Brilliant Club graduate, said: “The Brilliant Club is an amazing opportunity. It is structured so anybody can follow along. All you have to do is put in some effort and you can achieve something brilliant! The subject was about Britain’s 1919 seaport riots. This is a very interesting topic with lots of contextual links to things I had never covered or considered to be connected, such as racial tensions and the First World War. I feel like this opportunity has really helped me prepare for university as the subjects I currently do, do not involve essay style writing. This is incredibly useful as I will be able to show evidence of performing these skills when applying for university.”

The Brilliant Club is well-known and respected across the education sector. Its scholars programme is highly sought after by Russell Group universities as it highlights the students for having the right academic approach for continuing their studies at degree level and beyond.

Sandra Johnson, Assistant Headteacher and co-ordinator of The Brilliant Club project, said: “This is another fantastic year for our students who have really applied themselves to the additional work required to successfully complete the Brilliant Club programme. I am especially proud of them as they were forced to complete the final elements of the project remotely, following the lockdown. They all rose to the challenge and I really admire them for their determination and resilience in ensuring their work was completed and submitted on time, and to such a high standard.”

The Brilliant Club charity is the largest university access programme for secondary schools in the UK.  This year, 2,300 students nationally submitted assignments for the Scholars Programme. Visit for further information.

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