A school known as the “Eton of the East End” has launched a fundraising drive to allow it to continue providing a private-style education for free.
The London Academy of Excellence in Newham has had huge success taking bright students from the most deprived parts of London and getting them into top universities since it was founded in 2012.
This year 15 pupils got into Oxford and Cambridge — a success rate that rivals most top private schools which charge £30,000 a year for day students.
But the selective school is now asking donors for cash to make sure it can keep giving students a life-changing education.
It has launched the LAE Foundation, supported by Friends of LAE, and is asking for donations of £1,500 each year for two years to cover the funding gap between what the Government provides and what the school spends on students.
This includes everything from laboratory equipment, trips to museums and universities, books and bursaries for the most disadvantaged students.
Headmaster Scott Baker said funding for sixth forms has dropped by one fifth in real terms since 2010. He said many schools have had to limit the number of A-levels students can take, drop expensive subjects and extracurricular activities or cut the number of teaching hours.
He said: “In the face of cuts, to maintain the quality of provision, schools have had to be creative and reach out to ordinary people.”
He added that the school does not have an established alumni network to rely on for donations. It does receive £500,000 each year from HSBC, but the school wants to widen its funding base so it is not entirely reliant on it. Governor Martin Stephen said: “We are looking for people who owe a debt for their own education to consider becoming our friends. We are trying to offer students the same opportunities they get in the independent sector at a fraction of the cost.
“We live in straitened times, everyone is facing issues like this and we are not alone. The key thing is not to complain but to do something about it.”
LAE was set up with the help of a number of private schools, including Eton. Pupils from LAE are given a private school “buddy” who they visit, and currently two English literature teachers are seconded from Eton College.
Almost half of the students qualify for free school meals and more than two thirds are from families who haven’t sent a child to university before.
Last year 3,000 people applied for one of the 275 places. Pupils have consistently achieved some of the best A-level results in the country. Before LAE opened in 2011, just three students from Newham secured a place at Oxbridge. Since then, 65 LAE students have gone to the universities.
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