A student from a school in Sunderland, moved by the incident of witnessing an assault on her mother at their home, is now one step closer to fulfilling her dream of becoming a barrister, thanks to an academic scholarship that has significantly changed her life.

A collaborative partnership between Sunderland’s Castle View Enterprise Academy and Durham Cathedral Schools Foundation (DCSF) saw teenager Jorja Ross, from Castle Town, awarded a Sixth Form place at Durham School through its Burkitt Scholarship programme.

Now in Year 13 and preparing to sit four A Levels this academic year, Jorja has landed an interview at the University of Cambridge’s prestigious Faculty of Law and has already secured a conditional offer to read Law at Durham University.

She said: “I’m ecstatic; I never believed I’d be in this position and none of this would have been possible without the support and the opportunities I’ve been given.”

The 17 year old knew instinctively that she wanted to become a lawyer after she and her two younger siblings, James and Chloe, witnessed a neighbour attack their mother in August 2018. The perpetrator was handed a 12 month suspended sentence and ordered to pay £20 in compensation.

Jorja said: “I’ll never be able to stop crimes from taking place, so I want to help victims of crime and their families to achieve justice and move forward. “While at Durham School I’ve developed so many new skills and I’ve gained the confidence to pursue my dreams.”

Jorja’s mother, Barbara Marshall, said her daughter’s life had been transformed. She added: “The attack, and the impact it had on our family, has driven Jorja to make a difference and grasp opportunities. We are all so proud of her.”

Jorja’s story highlights the positive impact of the established partnership between Castle View and DCSF. Each year, Castle View puts some of its most gifted teenagers forward for the Burkitt Scholarship, which offers support of up to 100 per cent fee remission.

Castle View Vice Principal, Anita Payne, said: “This partnership allows us to raise the aspirations of our students and open the door to new opportunities. It makes us feel incredibly proud when our students thrive at Durham School and go on to secure places at Oxford, Cambridge or other Russell Group universities.”

The flourishing independent / state school relationship is recognised in DCSF’s ‘2023 Social Impact Review’, an extensive report that measures the impact the Foundation has regionally, nationally and internationally, through its academic, cultural and sporting partnerships and by its bursary programme.

Over the last year, more than 250 young people in the North East, aged between nine and 17, have accessed academic workshops led by DCSF staff, while 14 partner schools were involved in DCSF led activities. On a weekly basis, 24 community groups access the Foundation’s facilities while more than 500 young people from County Durham learn to swim in Durham School’s pool.

Traci Moore, DCSF Director of Partnerships, said: “Through collaborative efforts with local schools, universities and corporations, Durham Cathedral Schools Foundation is breaking barriers for underprivileged young people.”

DCSF’s bursary programme, which supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds whose life choices are limited through family circumstances or social deprivation, has benefitted 420 families across the North East. Around 1 in 7 pupils at DCSF attend on means-tested bursaries.

Jorja is one of more than 200 young people from across the region – from Northumberland down to North Yorkshire – who have been given the chance to study at the Sixth Form through the Burkitt Award. Her brother James, who is in Year 11 at Castle View, has applied for the scholarship next year and will sit exams in January.

Jorja’s dream to read Law at Cambridge could see her follow in the footsteps of the man behind the Burkitt Scholarship fund. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Gale Stewart Burkitt, a former pupil at Durham School between 1926 and 1932, was educated in Cambridge before joining the Indian Army. On retirement in 1948, he went to Oxford to read Law. In 1985, he made a bequest of more than £400,000 towards bursaries at Durham School.

“Bursaries at Durham Cathedral School Foundation are truly transformational,” said DCSF Development Director Andrew Beales. “This financial assistance nurtures talents, promotes diversity and supports the development of the future leaders of society.”

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