Ark William Parker Academy student Russell Reid is set to follow his lifelong passion for maths and science with a place to study Physics at Oxford University, Corpus Christi College, after earning 3 A*’s and an A in his A level exams.
From an early age, Russell has known he wanted to pursue the subject. He says: “I enjoyed maths when I was growing up and you would come up with equations, but you couldn't really conceive what they meant easily – physics is a way to input that into the real-world.
“Take driving your car – speed is modelled as a differential equation, so your distance is varying with time. And you can get more complex systems – if you have a string with a mass on it and it’s bobbing up and down, that can be modelled by a second order differential equation. It can get ferociously complex, but that makes it interesting.”
At Ark William Parker, Russell has been able to explore his interest and show his impressive academic aptitude. He studied Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths, as well as Further Additional Maths – which he has completed in a single year, rather than the normal two.
When it came to applying to universities, his appetite for studying Physics made Oxford the clear choice. “I knew I wanted to apply to Oxford or Cambridge because of their prestige, but Oxford’s course really appealed to me, as it will allow me to specialise in Physics rather than a more general degree in Natural Sciences, which is what is offered at Cambridge.
“I applied to Corpus Christi because it was quite a small college. I felt at home straight away. Even though it was strange meeting people who had gone to private schools and had quite different lives to mine, I didn't feel intimidated. I was able to have pretty intense mathematical conversations with them, and we were all on the same level.”
Though he now sees Oxford as the best fit for him, Russell might not have considered applying to Oxbridge if not for Ark William Parker: “I joined the Villiers Park Scholars Programme, which was offered through Ark William Parker in Year 10 through school, and they recommended just to start thinking about Oxbridge.”
Russell started at Ark William school in year 7. He says their support has played a large role in his success: “Because it’s quite a small community the teachers get to know you really well, so they can give you support when you need it and tailor your learning individually. They give up so much of their time – all you have to do is ask and they’ll help you. My maths teacher, Mr Smallman, gave me one-to-one help for some of my additional maths.
“William Parker joined the Ark network when I was starting GCSEs, and that was quite an important time for us. I definitely noticed a difference after we joined Ark – the environment was just so much more pleasant to work in. I think the staff members that came in really made a difference.”
As a student at an Ark school, Russell was eligible to apply for a Marshall Wace Bursary. Each year, the Marshall Wace Bursary Programme helps 40 talented Ark students headed for top universities, who might not otherwise be able to afford higher education, with expenses like accommodation and subsistence.
Russell says: "I have a brother and sister at university and they both told me the same thing: having enough money really matters when you're paying for food, accommodation and books.
"At Oxford, that is going to be even more important: the terms are shorter and more intense than at most universities, so I won't have enough time to have a part-time job.
"I knew a few people from Ark 6th Form East Sussex who'd got bursaries last year, so I went for it.
"I remember going into sixth form one day and finding out I'd got the Bursary. It felt really good to know that a financial stress has been alleviated, that I can just focus on getting the degree I'm capable of."
Russell is already looking forward to his career after university and the great opportunities a degree in Physics from a top university will open up. He says: “I’d quite like to do a PhD, and then maybe go into lecturing. Or I might try making documentaries for physics.”
Wherever his degree leads him, Russell says that his time at Ark William Parker will stay with him: “The people I’ve met are what sticks out most; not just the great friends I’ve made but the teachers too. There’s such a community feel within this school. I think that’s the main thing that I’ll take away from being here.”
Each year, the Reuben Scholarship Programme, Driver Youth Trust Bursary Programme and Marshall Wace Bursary Programme help talented Ark students headed for top universities, who might not otherwise be able to afford higher education, with expenses like accommodation and subsistence.
For more information on our bursary programme or how you might support Ark alumni, please contact Bridie Blower.