University Interviews

We ran a Q&A session with two students, David and Lucy, who just got back from their interviews at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. David is applying for Music and Lucy is applying for English. There’s a full audio recording available to download at

Here are some of the highlights!

Why did you apply to Cambridge?

David: I can’t ignore the fact that it’s one of the top universities for research and I went to a day course there at Corpus Christi, which I really enjoyed.

Why did you choose Oxford?

Lucy: It’s a beautiful city, quite intellectual! The college I applied for was originally the first college women were allowed to go to.

When you arrived, there are so many stereotypes… Did you ever feel like you didn’t belong?

Lucy: Honestly, you turned up there and everybody was wearing  jeans and casuals, everyone was really normal. Lady Margaret Hall is doing a Foundation year where people from disadvantaged backgrounds who might have three B’s at A Level can be taught for an extra year if they see potential in them, which is quite progressive.

What did you have to do during your interview?

David: Music is a unique course and every college assesses it differently. When I went in and sat down, the guy just asked me to tell him about my musical experiences. I spent the next half an hour of my life talking to someone who teaches harmony and keyboard skills, a professor at Cambridge, and felt confused but also really happy that they were talking intellectually about a subject that most people think is quite dumb. That’s what the interview system is, they just want to know what your brain is like and how interested you are in your subject. Make sure that you’re passionate because I had just applied for Music because my sister was studying it then I wouldn’t have been able to hold a conversation for that long about it! Make sure you are 100% choosing the right degree course, and the further reading you do is the best way of getting to interview. If you actually read the books you say on your personal statement that you’ve read then you can show your passion and they will get out of you what they really want to get out of you.

Lucy: With the first interview it was definitely more of a conversation- it was, ‘look at this poem, what do you think?’ The second one, the woman kept asking me questions and not really responding to what I was saying. That was a lot harder. I came out and I was absolutely drained.

Back in Year 12, what were you doing to prepare and how did you go about reading beyond what you were studying for AS Level?

Lucy: We were doing Jane Eyre so you can use that as a starting point to read other things relating to that, then branch out until you find a gem you can actually talk about. You don’t need to feel guilty about doing the extra reading; you have to have interests outside of what you’re studying. It has to be the right course for you and doing the reading helps you make that decision.

David: As soon as your exams are over, you’ve got a whole summer to use if you want to do a course, or go on the Cambridge website, find the first year reading list for the course you want to do and get reading. I went on and found a few texts, I read them and I got an interview. It speaks for itself.

I think that’s a good point that whatever your subject, there’s always something you can read online that is relevant. It’s not going to impress anyone if all you’ve done is the course you’re studying. For any competitive university, they are all going to want to see that you’ve done more than turned up to lessons and done your work. They want to see a real interest. There’s this phrase, you ‘read for a degree’. Even if you’re doing Science there’s still a real volume of material to read.

Thanks everyone and hope this is helpful.


Christmas newsletter

  • Christmas holidays means lots of opportunity to read, and we are running our Christmas reading challenge again for MAT pupils. Check our reading list page for the texts for each yeargroup. I’d also like to plug Pontypool Library’s reading group for 12-16 year olds, which meets monthly on Saturdays 11am-12 noon, and the next meeting is 17 December. Contact Carla Teague for more information.
  • We have started a ‘Talent’ register of any student with exceptional talent where they are competing at a national level or achieving outstandingly, such as musical competence far above their age, or other achievements outside of school. Please inform us if your child is competing at a high level in any field because we would love to celebrate their achievement.
  • Dentistry student Jack McSweeney from King’s College London is coming in to speak to Y10+ students interested in dentistry on 5th January, 2.20pm.
  • Trip to Oxford University for Y10+ is booked for 31st March- places £10 each on Parent Pay.
  • Y9 MAT trip to ‘The Crucible’ provisionally booked for May- more details to follow.

A Christmas Carol

Many thanks to Quantum Theatre for visiting us on Monday 28th November for an amazing performance of the classic Dickens story of ‘A Christmas Carol’. Students from Year 7,8 and 9 attended and were a spell-bound audience as the story unfolded.


Many thanks to our Year 9 MAT team who ran front of house on the day and stewarded the event.

Time to get into the Christmas spirit- no bah humbugs here!

True Tube Voiceover Competition

Win a voiceover recording session in London with True Tube’s Easter competition “Jesus Christ Voiceover Star”.

We will be awarding prizes for the best poems or pieces of poetic prose which can be used as voiceover scripts for three two-minute films that tell the Easter story. The films are made using excerpts from the BBC1 documentary “The Story of Jesus”, and as such are high quality, dramatic reconstructions which tell the story of the Last Supper, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.

Good voiceover scripts are essential in today’s media: on the news, in documentaries, over adverts – they help to guide viewers from scene to scene, to make sense of what they seeing, or to provoke an emotional response.

Students’ scripts might explain what the viewers are seeing, comment and reflect on the action, or be an emotional response. We will ask judges to look for:

•A clear knowledge of the Easter story.
•An understanding of what the events of Easter mean for Christians.
•A voice-over that matches and creatively responds to the images on screen.
•An imaginative use of language in poetry or prose.
We will shortlist four entries for each film in two categories – Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9) and Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11) – from which winners will be chosen by our judging panel.

 To view the three clips, click here.

The winning students will be invited to come to our studio with a teacher, parent or guardian to record their entries as voiceovers. Recording sessions will be held in London between Monday 17th March 2014 and Friday 28th March 2014, after which the recordings will be dubbed onto the films and hosted on the TrueTube website.

For each winning entry we will cover the cost of return journeys to London by train for two people – including the student. Winners will also receive a DVD of the finished films and a certificate.

How to Enter
The competition is open for submissions until 5pm on Friday 28th February. Please email Mrs Toovey with your entry!

Girls’ Speaking Competition

Run by Soroptimist International of Wales South, the heats for this girls’ speaking competition take place locally in March and April, though dates and venues are still to be confirmed. The aims of the competition are to encourage girls to play a more prominent role in public life, to help them develop the skill of speaking effectively, and to develop their self confidence and communication skills. The competition is open to girls aged 14 to 18.

The topics for the competition are:
• How relevant is the ‘rights of the child’ to young women in Wales today?
• Value of volunteering for young women and girls.

If you’d like to enter, please email Mrs Toovey and specify your chosen topic.

Young Writers’ 100 Words Competition

We’d love as many students as possible to enter this story-writing competition. The theme is ‘A Twist in the Tale’ and your story can be about anything as long as it’s only 100 words long. We send off our school’s entries together so please get them to Mrs Toovey by the end of term. The deadline is 20 December. Please see Mrs Toovey for an entry form. Click here for more information.

NACE Photography Competition

The subject for the competition is ‘The World we Live in’. Entrants can  capture any aspect of their world – busy streets, glorious scenery, home,  school, local events or scenes from further afield. They may attempt more  social comment on mechanisation, graffiti, law and order, terrorism or other  such controversial topics. Anything found on earth in the 21st century is  acceptable. 

        Entrants have scope to be  both creative and imaginative and capture a visual image that conveys some  aspect of our world. .

        The competition is open to all school pupils in two categories, Primary and  Secondary and closes on Friday 31st January  2014
        The prize will consist of the winning photo in each category being made  into a canvas print. (Winners will need an electronic version of their  photo) . More details can be found here.