Wes grew up on a council estate in the East End of London and was the first person in his family to graduate from university. After taking part in his Sutton Trust programme, Wes went on to read history at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Read on to hear the difference that the summer school made to his journey, and where he has gone on to since.
“Oxford and Cambridge were a world away from the London council estate I grew up on. When I was a teenager I thought that studying there was just for kids from private schools. But I got good grades in my GCSEs and a teacher told me to apply to a Sutton Trust Summer School. I didn’t realise it then but that advice changed my life.
I got a place and spent a week in the summer of 2000 living as a Cambridge history student. I went to lectures, wrote essays and met some great people. It was just the confidence boost I needed. When I got home I knew that I was going to apply to Cambridge.
The summer school made me realise that I had just as much right to go to a top university as anyone else. Not only that, I had a good chance of getting in. I saw that Cambridge wasn’t the stuffy institution I thought it was. I knew that I would fit in, make friends and have a great time.
The Sutton Trust has had a massive impact on my life. If I hadn’t spent that week in 2000 on their summer school in Cambridge, I don’t think I would have so much confidence to apply. It has certainly changed my life and given me opportunities that led to my election to Parliament at the age of 32.
Going to university opens so many doors. If you have the grades and it feels like the right choice for you, my advice is to go for it!
My advice to anyone thinking about embarking on a career in research is to develop your personal interests during your undergraduate years. Read deeper into your chosen subject and develop your own niche area as you go on to write your dissertation.”
Wes bucked the trend to win his parliamentary seat at the 2015 election with the largest swing from the Conservatives to Labour in the country. Prior to that, Wes served as deputy leader and cabinet member for health and wellbeing of the London Borough of Redbridge. In his career outside politics, Wes served in the voluntary sector as a chief executive and in other senior leadership roles for a number of national charities focused on tackling inequality and educational disadvantage. He is a vice-president of the Local Government Association, a Fellow of the RSA and a former president of the National Union of Students.
Every story we collect from our alumni helps inspire the next generation of students to aim for careers they might never have thought of. If you, like Wes, want to share your story with us – just get in touch with the alumni team via [email protected].Back to 25th Anniversary Homepage