A Hastings student is set to study physics at Oxford University after securing an incredible set of A-level results on Thursday (August 18).
Ark William Parker Academy’s Russell Reid is following a life-long passion for maths and science by getting into Corpus Christi College with three A*s and an A.
The 18-year-old 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.
Russell said he was relieved more than anything when he picked up his results and is now looking forward to the years ahead.
“I was relieved if anything and it was good that all the hard work had paid off and it wasn’t all for nothing,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to it and it should be really good as I enjoyed it when I went for an interview and met some really nice people so I’m looking forward to the friendships I’ll make.”
When it came to applying to universities, his appetite for studying physics made Oxford the clear choice, and he said he was not intimated despite coming from a state school.
“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,” he said.
“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 seven. 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,” he said.
“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.
“They sorted out a lot of behaviour issues as well. There used to be much more fighting and bullying. I think the staff members that came in really made a difference.”
In pursuits outside of school, Russell has also achieved success, completing the Hastings half marathon and playing for Hastings and Bexhill Rugby Club.
Russell was given a Marshall Wace Bursary, which helps 40 talented Ark students headed for top universities every year, who might not otherwise be able to afford higher education, with expenses like accommodation and subsistence.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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,” he said.
“Everyone helps each other. The teachers will help students outside of school – my physics teacher, Mr Barker, helped me with some practice interviews and students will help other students.
“There’s such a community feel within this school. I think that’s the main thing that I’ll take away from being here.”
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