ISSP and The Wheeler Programme


The Wokingham Federation and Wellington College Independent / State School Partnership (ISSP)

Wellington College has been working with local state schools on a regular basis since 2008 delivering a wide range of activities.

The College runs a formal Independent/State School Partnership (ISSP) comprising 15 schools, which is largely funded by the College. There is a nominal membership fee which allows the partner schools to take advantage of the full programme. The key aim of the ISSP partnership is to raise aspirations amongst able pupils within the partnership schools. The intention is to raise pupils’ awareness of their own potential and to support ambitious university applications and the take-up of enrichment opportunities.

The ISSP benefits all students by showing them a world totally different to their own. For the ISSP students it opens their eyes to a different educational environment. It gives them the opportunity to engage with other students from other schools; they get to explore subjects and topics beyond the standard curriculum which can help stretch their knowledge and understanding of the world. This shows them alternative perspectives and enhances future aspirations.

Pre-pandemic, the College welcomed over 2000 students per academic year who participated in a variety of enrichment activities including subject specific days in STEM subjects, languages, sport and music. An Oxbridge support programme was also provided which supported personal development with workshops in revision skills, university applications and well-being. Students were invited to educational conferences on leadership, sport, environment/sustainability, and US college applications, as well as to the Wellington College university information fair.

In September 2020, the College started to deliver its Oxbridge support programme online. All the usual events were successfully delivered in this format including an ‘Introduction to Oxbridge’ event attended by 280 students. Regular newsletters were sent out, updating students of changes to the application/interview process as they were confirmed and all year 13 local students who applied to Oxbridge were supported, coordinating 75 online mock interviews with Wellington College teachers. Students were also invited to attend Wellington College online lectures, talks and enrichment opportunities.

Wellington College very much looking forward to welcoming students back. The pandemic has made courses be delivered in different ways which has proved to be a positive learning experience for all and it hopes to deliver some elements of its programmes online in the future.

The Wheeler Programme

The Wheeler Programme, established in 2017, is a fully funded educational programme designed to support state school students attending secondary schools. The underlying goal is that those students involved are not to be bound by artificial targets of, for example, successful entry to particular universities, but more simply to unlock their potential, and to enable them to become the best version of themselves by establishing a growing partnership between the students, their schools, their families and Wellington College.

The programme focuses on students who are underachieving at school for a number of possible reasons but who show academic curiosity. Each year the College selects a cohort of 20 students in year 9, and support these students until they graduate in year 13, with a bespoke programme of activities tailored to their individual needs.

Each year’s programme includes 2 study days at Wellington College and a residential stay.  The experience of boarding, staying away from home and being part of the Wellington community, even for a short time, is a key element of the personal growth embedded in the programme.

Through a mixture of group activities, visits to interesting workplaces, universities, organisations and people, talks, lectures, workshops, discussions, individual coaching, and tailored mentoring, all participating students are able to discover, develop and grow their own strengths, whether they be academic, personal, artistic, sporting or social.

The Wheeler Programme has shown a positive change in students – in their achievements, attitude, and confidence – back in their own schools. It has enhanced their interest and engagement in their subjects and has helped them make decisions for the future.

During the pandemic, the usual residential courses were cancelled and replaced by a virtual 5-day course for all year groups. From September, the College shifted from study days to online study evenings so students could access the same programme after their school day. A bespoke programme was delivered for each cohort. During these sessions, catch up classes for academic subjects, subject tutoring, 1:1 coaching and sessions on mental health and wellbeing were delivered. Some of the year 12 and 13 students also attended online careers events.

Wellington College and all participating schools look forward to the first cohort graduating this year!