Thank God It's Friday

15th August 2003 at 01:00
John O'Donoghue puts Oxford through its paces

Monday I'm off to Oxford on a teachers' study week. Will my prejudices be confirmed? Will the dreaming spires turn out to be more of a toff's finishing school than an academic retreat? Will it be a Hoorays' hideaway, all swans and dons, or a place where the brightest students get the best breaks? Or will it be Bikeshed Revisited, a jape straight out of Teachers? I arrive at Hertford College late, and am packed off to the annexe in Abingdon Road, near the river. Would the students from my state community college fit in here?

Tuesday A busy programme. At the Bodleian we are given a talk by the librarian and, having sworn not to damage the stock, issued with a readers' card. Then to the Rainolds Room at Corpus Christi for a "meet and greet" with admissions. There are 30 teachers here for the week, spread over six colleges, from all sorts of institutions. I give admissions a grilling, with a fiendish tri-partite question. My questions are answered fairly and go some way to reassuring me that only the brightest and best without fear or favour get in. Some of our students could be in with a shout. With our best ever Sats results - 75 per cent across English, maths and science - why not?

Wednesday Drinks in the Old Library at Hertford, followed by dinner in hall. In the candlelit gloom, the patina of shabbiness and old money works its charm.

Thursday I've been chatting to students I meet around the town. All say Oxford's facilities are second to none, all have had a great time.

Admissions lays one on; we are going to be ferried down the river. We meet at Magdalen, and are gently propelled through chiaroscuro foliage, dappled light lulling us into a satisfied trance. A hoot. Until - a ramming by Israeli youths.

Friday Our last day. My fellow teachers and I all agree it's been great.

Next year I'm bringing my teddy bear.

John O'Donoghue teaches English at Portslade community college, Brighton.

Details of next year's study weeks can be found at: www.admissions.ox.ac.uk

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