Stormzy, the London grime super star, plans to send his children to school at Brampton Manor on the East Side of London. Rose Hill, Escallier and Bethlehem in East Port of Spain display similar symptoms of multiple deprivations as Tower Hamlets and Newham in East London. The diversity of deprivations on the East Side of both cities varies significantly, but the East Side Stories are identical. Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets runs south from Swanfield Street in Bethnal Green, crosses Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch, and reaches Whitechapel made legendary by Jack the Ripper. You are in the ghetto – but nowhere is safer. It’s easier to be robbed in Southwark.
Boris Johnson plans for every child in England to find their place in the world and so something is happening in the shops and schools in East London. The graffiti walled shops on Brick Lane sell the most treasurable merchandise. Rent for a studio flat is through the roof. Before COVID-19, Brick Lane restaurants were awash with movie stars and record producers and the schools on the East Side were off the wall.
East side schools give the poor the prospect of being better educated than the aristocrats in the Sixth Forms at Eton, The Faculty of Queen Ethelburga’s and Benenden School. Edgy East Side Schools have a rigid uniform policy, relentless ambition and remarkably high expectations. Their students love their teachers, not for who they are, but for what they become when they are with them. Brampton Manor converted to an Academy in 2011 and opened a Sixth Form in 2012. In 2014, it secured one Oxbridge offer. Brampton Manor only hires teachers who graduated from Queen Mary, Oxford, Cambridge and other high-class Russell Group Universities. Now, the lavish from Holland Park on the West Side aspire for their children to be enrolled at schools on London’s East Side.
East Side schools have been getting more Oxbridge offers than Gordonstoun, Charterhouse, Harrow or The King’s School, Canterbury. Brampton Manor is a state school in London’s run-down East Side. Students there have received more offers from Oxford and Cambridge than Boris Johnson’s alma mater. The children there come from overcrowded households. Homes where they are the first to fill out a university application form. In 2019, Newham got 41 offers. In 2020, that went up to 51 and in 2021, 55 pupils at Newham secured offers from Oxford and Cambridge. Eton got 48 offers in 2021; 69 in 2020. Five years ago Eton got 99 offers. Harris Westminster Sixth Form Free School got 44 in 2020; 34 in 2019. London Academy of Excellence got 37 in 2020; 26 in 2019. One in five children in Newham live in low-income families. Students at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre got offers from Princeton, Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge. The curse is lifted.
How then do we move our state school system towards the Brampton Manor model and other East Side London schools? One suggestion is to table a New Education Act that provides for the establishment of Academy and Trust Schools. The overarching aim is to shift the culture of state schools and raise children’s aspirations. Academies and trust schools can then become the main apparatus of the Government’s policies for improving the performance of publicly maintained schools outside of the parameters of the Concordat. A segregated education system, determined by the notorious eleven-plus and weighted towards a middle class habitus, is symbolic of an island in a time-warp.
Few institutions have polarised opinion to the same extent as schools under the Concordat. Extolled for their excellence and reviled for their social exclusiveness. Unified by faith-based-governance, their teachers who are salaried by the state engage in the formation of students of diverse faith-persuasions. They remain single-sex schools that are highly selective, and non-all-ability. Recent scholarship awards highlight state schools like Vessigny and Couva Secondary as noteworthy unfollowers and disruptors. Academies are state-funded all-ability schools established by sponsors from the education, business, faith or voluntary sectors, in partnership with the local community. Trust schools are established with a charitable trust that forges a long-term sustainable affiliation with external partners to create a new source of vitality. UTT and UWI may choose to engage with academies and trust schools as lead sponsors, co-sponsors or partners, and in other less formal ways. Sponsorship gives the university a chance to shape trust risk management policy, pedagogy, curriculum, ethical leadership, quality assurance, and access to new sources of funding that lead ultimately to a Seamless Education System.
Some trusts can operate a consortium of academies across districts or a single academy. Universities may partner with a single school, or play a partner role in a consortium of schools forming a trust. A member of a university can be appointed as a school governor, with the university and school(s) having a MoU about the respective institutions’ relationship and shared aspirations. Academy trusts are not-for-profit companies. The trustees are responsible for the academic performance of the academies in the trust. There is no role for a Teaching Service Commission. Academies receive funding directly from the government and are run by an academy trust.