YOUNGSTERS from across East Lothian are being given the chance to spend a week at Oxford University this summer in the first partnership of its type in Scotland.

Exeter College has teamed up with East Lothian Council to bring 12 third-year pupils to the university for a stay which will allow them to experience first-hand the unique learning techniques and opportunities available there.

The project was established by former Councillor East Lothian Brian Small and his son Andrew, who is a doctoral student at the college and came up with the idea.

Brian, of Pencaitland, said the pair now hoped to establish an endowment fund to ensure the trip can become an annual event for East Lothian students by providing travel costs and other support.

This year’s trip will see the local authority fund travel with the college covering all costs of the stay itself.

Mr Small, who resigned from the council last week after branding his fellow Conservative councillors “heartless” over the way they dealt with his battle with health issues,  said he wanted to make sure money was available to repeat the project every summer.

He said: “I am delighted we have been able to start this innovative project as pathways for all our children in East Lothian was always something I was fully committed to as a councillor.

“I am now looking to set up an endowment fund to ensure travel costs along with perhaps some other support needs are able to be covered in future years.

“If anyone would like to discuss this further then I would be delighted to talk with them.”

Two pupils from each of East Lothian’s six secondary schools will travel to Oxford in June for the week-long stay.

The selected students will live on Exeter College’s historic main site, in the very heart of Oxford, where they will be given a taster experience of what makes an Oxford education.

The council said interested pupils were now given a chance to apply for a place in the trip with places awarded by teachers following a selection procedure involving written work.

Andrew said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for pupils from East Lothian to come and learn at one of the world’s greatest educational institutions.

“The week’s activities have been selected to improve pupils’ independent and creative thinking, which we hope will improve their attainment at school and perhaps even plant the seed of aspiration that will motivate pupils to attend the university.

“My hope is that this is just the beginning of a long-standing partnership between the college and East Lothian.

“I would like to thank Sir Rick Trainor, Rector of Exeter College and Professor Mac Niocaill, the college’s Tutor for Admissions, for their full support. Without them, this partnership would have remained just an idea.”

Fiona Robertson, head of education, East Lothian Council, said the trip offered a rare opportunity for young people in the county to study at one of the world’s top universities.

She said: “I hope the 12 pupils involved will find it to be an inspirational trip and one which allows them to develop their independent, creative thinking and commitment to learning. I would like to thank Andrew Small and his father, Brian Small, for making this a reality.”