Eton College’s headmaster has pledged to aid in bridging the North-South divide in Oxbridge admissions as he prepares to establish three state schools. The Department for Education has granted permission for Eton to create selective state sixth-forms in Dudley, Middlesbrough, and Oldham. These schools will enroll students from deprived areas in the Black Country, Teesside, and northern Greater Manchester, offering them a rigorous and comprehensive education with the goal of securing placements in prestigious universities.
In the past five years, only two of the 40 schools with the highest number of students receiving offers from Oxford or Cambridge were located outside of Southern England. Eton College is partnering with Star Academies, a high-performing academy trust run by Sir Mufti Hamid Patel, to establish these free schools.
Headmaster Simon Henderson and Sir Mufti emphasized the inequality of opportunity and outcome in regional disparities of Oxbridge admissions, which has been further exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Their collaboration aims to address the issue of students in the North of England and the West Midlands achieving good GCSE results but failing to convert them into university placements.
Eton will contribute approximately £3 million annually, in addition to government funding, to ensure that the schools can provide the same academic and extracurricular opportunities as those available to boys at the Berkshire boarding school. Pupils will benefit from subject specialists, access to talks, academic prizes, debate clubs, Oxbridge-style tutorials, and the opportunity to attend Eton’s summer school.
Each college will admit 240 students per year, with a focus on accepting those from disadvantaged backgrounds, including students eligible for free school meals, children in care, and students from disadvantaged postal codes or who would be the first in their families to attend university. The aim is to provide students with the ability to aspire to top-tier or Russell Group universities, which will be reflected in the required GCSE results for admission.
The opening dates for the colleges have not been confirmed, but Dudley, Middlesbrough, and Oldham were chosen due to the low conversion rate of good GCSE results into A-level grades suitable for entry to top UK universities.
By establishing these state schools, Eton College aims to both address the regional disparities in Oxbridge admissions and provide greater opportunities for talented students outside of the South of England.