March 2013

The know zone

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  • Simply Brilliant!
    The Brilliant Club widens access to top universities for outstanding students from non-selective state schools. More
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Simply Brilliant

The Brilliant Club widens access to top universities for outstanding students from non-selective state schools.

What is The Brilliant Club?

The Brilliant Club is an educational charity that works to widen access to higher education by recruiting, training and placing outstanding PhD students into schools and colleges that serve low-participation communities. They in turn deliver university-style tutorials to small groups of high-performing students, aged 10 to 18 years.

“We want to get to a point where it is completely normal to walk down the corridor of any non-selective school and see a PhD student delivering university-style tutorials to pupils,” says Simon Coyle, co-founder and chief operating officer. This year the organisation will place nearly 150 PhD students into more than 100 schools, working with more than 3,000 high-performing pupils.

The teaching that PhD students deliver is the cornerstone of the organisation’s provision and to ensure that it is of the highest quality, tutors are trained to a high standard by experienced teachers, working in partnership with teaching schools and national leaders of education (NLEs).

Is there a programme for schools to follow?

Yes – there is an Expert Learners Programme for each of the Key Stages from Key Stage 2 right the way through to Key Stage 5. The programmes emulate teaching and learning at highly selective universities. PhD students deliver tutorials to pupils, developing critical thinking and communication skills. Between tutorials, pupils undertake reading and writing assignments that develop effective research skills and academic writing skills, and promote independent learning.

The programmes start with a launch trip where pupils are introduced to their tutor and then take part in a carousel of learning activities. For the next few weeks the tutor spends one day a week in school, delivering back-to-back tutorials to small groups of pupils. Building on the work that they do in tutorials, pupils work independently to produce an essay with an original argument and depending on which key stage they are from, the essay is marked according to strict criteria suitable for that age group.

The organisation begins working with pupils at a young age and continues to support their academic development, with opportunities to join at each key stage. All pupils who take part have demonstrated the potential to secure a place at a highly selective university.

Are any other partners involved?

The Brilliant Club is supported by The Sutton Trust, Teach First, Challenge Partners and Goldman Sachs, and it works closely with a number of universities including Kings College London, Oxford, Sussex and Warwick.

Are there any resources available for schools?
The organisation provides all resources for the programmes including teaching materials for tutors and course handbooks for pupils. As part of its Extended Learning Programme, which goes beyond the PhD student placements in school, it also provides information, advice and guidance resources including two free schemes of work – Accessing Top Careers (Key Stage 4) and Accessing Highly Selective Universities (Key Stage 5), both available on their website.

What does it cost?

The cost of the programmes is subsidised by The Sutton Trust but schools do have to pay a fee for each PhD placement, typically about £150 per student on the programme. The Brilliant Club has had support from the DfE that schools should feel confident in putting Pupil Premium funding towards the programme. The schemes of work are free to download from their website.

Find out more
Email or for more information see the website: