TWELVE school pupils have won places on the first Scottish exchange project by the University of Oxford after tackling questions about love, gender and French philosophy.

The pupils, who come from each of East Lothian’s six secondary schools, faced a literary assessment which would leave most parents baffled.

And as if that was not enough, the third-year pupils then had to take on a Higher maths paper challenging their knowledge of logarithms.

The project, which was established by former councillor Brian Small and his son Andrew, who is a Doctoral student at the university's Exeter College, includes fully-funded travel, accommodation and meals for the pupils who will receive one-on-one tutorials and take part in seminars.

Two S3 pupils from each secondary school were chosen after a competition which saw those who applied face tough assessments to win their places.

The literary test set to the pupils challenged them to explain French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s Deconstruction before asking them to apply it to the concept of love – and debate the impact of words such as policeman, fireman and midwife on gender equality.

The winning pupils who will head to Oxford at the end of next month are: Abigail Sheridan and Jessica Walker (Dunbar Grammar School); Reuben Phoenix-Hill and Kaci Smith (Knox Academy); Amelia Convey and Amy Hamilton (Musselburgh Grammar School); Thomas Jeffery and Claudia Logan (North Berwick High School); Georgia Hastings and Anya Martin (Ross High School); and Sula McDonald and Lewis Miller (Preston Lodge High School).

Alongside the work, a series of social activities have been planned, including a visit to Oxford University Natural History Museum, punting on the River Cherwell and croquet in the Fellows’ Garden of Exeter.

Andrew Small said: “The enthusiasm of the pupils for the project has been infectious. My hope is that this is just the beginning of a long-standing partnership between the college and East Lothian.

“I am delighted to have played a part in creating a link between my two homes, East Lothian and Exeter College. I would like to thank Sir Rick Trainor, Rector of the college, and Professor Conall Mac Niocaill, the tutor for admissions, for their full support. Without them, this programme would have remained just an idea.”

Fiona Robertson, East Lothian Council’s head of education, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for all of the young people, giving them the chance to experience academic life at one of the country’s top universities."

The successful applicants and their parents met at an event at the Town House in Haddington, giving them an opportunity to learn more about the programme and arrangements, and to meet and socialise with one another. Additional events will be held for the participants so they can build relationships ahead of the trip.

Pupils had 40 minutes to answer the literary assessment questions as follows:

Question 1: In your own words, please tell us your understanding of what Derrida’s ‘Deconstruction’ is? (Please feel free to use annotated illustrations, if this would help you to develop your ideas).

Question 2: In your opinion, why was this an interesting idea?

Question 3: What are the implications of this idea on the accuracy of the things that we say and how we communicate with other people about the way that we feel?

Question 4: If you take an abstract concept such as ‘love’, what effect does deconstruction have on a universal understanding of this feeling?

Question 5: If we consider that the English language includes words such as policeman, fireman and midwife – in your opinion, what are the implications for gender equality?