This was copied from the strategic review written in 2011 by the VP (Access & Academic Affairs) Alex Bulfin.
Target Schools was established in Michaelmas Term 1982. No records currently exist prior to 1990, however in the Target Schools Review (2007) James Lamming (then VP (Access & Academic Affairs) noted “non-application, not non-admission, was the problem to be addressed by the [Target Schools] committee” (p. 4). The report notes that in 1982 OUSU Education Committee drew up lists of ‘target’ comprehensive schools; many were visited in 1983 for the first time in visits organised by the Education Committee. The first Target Schools Chair was appointed in 1984 and the first open day was held in Hilary Term 1985 for 140 students from the ‘target’ schools. 1985 was also reportedly the first year that the Handbook and Teachers’ Guide was published. In 1988 Target Schools split from OUSU’s Education Committee. Target Schools did not secure stable university funding until 1994.
The oldest Target Schools publication currently in the archives dates from February 1990. At that point Target Schools’ stated mission was:
“to improve the proportion of state-educated students within Oxford University and in particular women, ethnic minorities, and those from schools with no tradition of sending pupils to this university.” (Exploding the Oxford Myth, p.1)
The same publication also noted that Target Schools’ “main method is to encourage such pupils to apply to Oxford”. These early publications appear to be combined guides for teachers and students, which in effect are cut-down versions of the Alternative Prospectus (which was also being published at the time) with a focus on state-sector applicants and ‘myth-busting’. In some subsequent years these have been divided into handbooks for students and handbooks for teachers or parents.
By 1995, Target Schools explicit focus on increasing applications are strengthened and it is apparent that this is felt to be the crucial step in creating a more educationally diverse background. Target Schools:
“exists to encourage more applications from the state schools sector, to provide information about the Oxford admissions system and to address the common concerns of state school pupils about life at Oxford.” (Oxford Target Schools Handbook 1995, p.2)
At this point Target Schools had begun to organise open days as well as continuing to run its school visits programme. Two open days were run for state school students and another specifically for women. However the explicit focus on women and ethnic minorities have, by this point, been omitted from Target Schools’ mission statement, although are referenced elsewhere.
In 1996 the aim of Target Schools is focused further as simply “to encourage more applicants to Oxford from the state school sector” (Target Schools Teachers’ Guide 1996, p.2). At this point there is the first explicit mention of the Target Schools committee being entirely state-school students. There is also still reference to the overall student demographic in the university but this is not connected to the mission statement above.
There is greater continuity in the language used to describe Target Schools’ mission in the mid- to late-90s than perhaps elsewhere in the organisation’s history. However there are still variances. In the Teachers’ Guide 1998, Target Schools aims is “to redress the current imbalance in Oxford” between state- and privately-educated students (at the time this ratio was 1:1). In this period both of these stated aims (regarding applications and overall student ratios) appear together and independently.
Into the next decade and Target Schools’ mission seems to coalesce much more consistently around applications to Oxford, typically the following:
“Target Schools is a student-led access initiative that aims to increase the number of students from the state sector applying to Oxford.” (TS Handbook 2005, inside cover)
The last Target Schools handbook on file dates from 2005. At this point Target Schools’ activities are listed as including “publications, school visits, open days and regional conferences” (ibid).
The period from 2005-07 appears to have been one of decline for Target Schools. At the start of the 07-08 academic year there were no co-chairs for the campaign and it is described as being “administratively in limbo” (Target Schools Review 2007, p.5). It was felt that some of Target Schools’ activities were duplicating work being done more effectively or efficiently elsewhere in the university. The review report also notes that “Target Schools seems to have lost sight of its campaigning work within the University and had failed to highlight gaps in University widening participation provision” (p.6).
During the period from 2007-2011 the Target Schools campaign has enjoyed a renaissance. Broad membership of the campaign has consistently been around the 1000-students mark, and the committee has been full for the previous three years. In 2009-10 Target Schools logged thirty-five visits on the outreach database, which was enough to put the campaign in the top ten organisations in the university in terms of output (although considerably behind the front-runners, particularly when the campaign’s size is taken into account). In 2009 Target Schools ran its first Shadowing Scheme, bringing students to Oxford to follow undergraduates for a day, including attending a tutorial and receiving other admissions related workshops. Responsibility for the Alternative Prospectus now lies with OUSU rather than Target Schools (through the OUSU Publisher and VP (Access & Academic Affairs), and Target Schools does not currently have any publications beyond basic publicity materials.