Brighton College to open new Free School
11 October 2011
Brighton College has received the green light from the government to open a pioneering sixth form college, The London Academy of Excellence, in a deprived area of East London. Richard Cairns, whose inspirational headship has driven the co-educational independent Brighton to the top reaches of the league tables, now seeks to give less fortunate students the opportunity to achieve such stellar A-level results. This is building on a well-established relationship with Kingsford Community School in Newham and its Head Joan Deslandes, three of whose pupils come to board at Brighton each year.
Ten other independent schools from the southeast are backing the project through sponsoring the teaching of A-Level subjects. Eton College, for example, will take responsibility for English and Highgate School for Mathematics. The City of London Boys School will be seconding one of their P.E staff to the LAE to take charge of all of the sporting provision. In some cases, an individual member of staff will work in the school for a year or more; in others it is envisaged that there will be an ebb and flow of subject staff between the two schools. The Academy will bring together academically ambitious young people from all sorts backgrounds.
The LAE is one of the second tranche of free schools to be announced Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, this week. It will be sited in Newham, where there are strikingly few academic sixth form courses available, thus causing A level students to go outside the borough to study. It will be a relatively small school with 150 students in its first year, rising to 400 by its third.
The LAE will be selective and distinctive. Half of the students will come from Newham itself, the borough with the largest uptake of Free School Meals in the country. They will be required to fulfil the entry requirements of at least five A grades at GCSE. Only 12 “hard” subjects will be offered: students will not be able to take Media Studies, Food Technology or Sociology, for example; instead they will be choosing from the likes of Maths, Physics, Chemistry or History. This is to be a robustly academic institution. With expert pastoral care and careful university guidance, the aim is to secure places for the students at the very top universities. One of the most vocal complaints from such institutions over recent years has been dearth of applicants from deprived areas. Richard Cairns declares his mission is to send more students to Oxford and Cambridge after 4 years than 75% of independent schools. The LAE will also be mindful of life after university and foster links with key professions, such as the law and medicine, thereby opening up hitherto unseen vistas to its students.
In addition to a requirement to look smart and business-like (all students will wear suits) the day will be significantly longer than they might have been used to, going on till 5pm. This is not only to give more time for study, but also to accommodate an outreach programme. Students will go out into the community for half a day each week to work with children in primary schools and their former secondary schools to give them a sense of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication. In all quarters of the London Academy of Excellence, the aim is to foster academic ideals and nurture aspiration.