College principal wants talks over first sixth form free school


A college principal is seeking talks with leaders of a new sixth form free school which is due to open in east London.

Education minister Michael Gove has announced a raft of new free schools to open from 2012.

Among them is the London Academy of Excellence, which will open in Newham and will be run by Brighton College.

The 16-19 sixth form college will have a number of sponsors, including Eton College and Highgate School, and will house no more than 400 students, with 150 in the first year.

Although no site has been identified for the London Academy of Excellence, it is hoped it will open in September 2012. Talks on a location are due to take place between the Department for Education and Brighton College next week.

Simon Smith, former deputy head of Brighton College and co-ordinator of the free school project, said the institution will focus on the “so-called harder A level” subjects and will be aimed at people living in deprived areas, who want to go to top universities.

It means they will teach English, maths and science, but not courses such as media studies, sociology and food technology.

Mr Smith said: “It arises from the top group of universities complaining that they recieve so few applications from young people in deprived areas.

“We are feeling very excited. But we will be more excited when we know which site in Newham will be given to us.

“The aim is to open in September 2012.”

However, Eddie Playfair, principal at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc), is seeking talks with the new free school’s hierarchy.

He said: “We all want to see more young people in east London progressing to top universities. This raises questions about how best to do that.

“We have students progressing to Russell Group and Oxbridge universities. We did try to initiate with one of the local heads involved but I think they wanted to wait until after the announcement.

“We would be keen to speak to them, rather than competing for the same students. It may lead to siphoning off the higher achieving students to lead to more social diversion and segregation.”

Mr Smith said he would be happy to speak to Mr Playfair.

He added: “We haven’t had dealings with them, particularly because we were told by the government not to do anything until it’s official.

“But we will do. We don’t want to pinch their best students. They have a much broader sixth form then we are offering.”

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  1. NewVIc is a fantastic college that encourages the most able students to aim for the highest universities. It is patronising and mistaken to think that the private sector can automatically better educate the poorest in east London. It promotes an elitism that simply won’t work in the interests of the poorest.