Eton College has this month signed a landmark partnership agreement with Star Academies with the intent of opening three selective sixth form colleges in the state sector in the next five years.

Proposed to be located in the Midlands and North of England, the colleges will fast-track young people, often from deprived communities, to the most academic UK universities. It will do this by blending Eton’s educational philosophy, including a rigorous and academic curriculum, with the ethos and approach of Star Academies, one of the country’s leading state school providers.

The colleges will be inspired by the hugely successful London Academy of Excellence in East London, of which Eton is a partner. Last year LAE pupils received 37 offers to Oxford and Cambridge.

The new colleges will admit 240 students per year and will offer many of the educational and extra-curricular opportunities available to pupils at Eton College itself, including knowledge-rich teaching from some of the country’s most respected subject-specialists, access to talks from high-profile speakers, academic essay prizes and debate clubs, Oxbridge-style tutorial sessions and the chance to learn Latin.

Some of these students’ teaching will be delivered virtually by Eton staff and students from the new colleges will have a chance to attend Eton College annually for a Summer School.

The new colleges will be part of the Star Academies multi-academy trust and will focus their recruitment on young people on free school meals, in receipt of the pupil premium, or who live in particularly deprived areas. Eton will make a significant and ongoing financial contribution that will allow for the enhanced curriculum and the provision of enrichment opportunities.

Star and Eton will be bidding through the anticipated next wave of the government’s innovative Free Schools programme to set up these new colleges. Subject to approval, we are planning for the first college to open in September 2024 with others to follow shortly thereafter.

Star Academies is one of the most successful academy trusts in the country, running 30 state schools and specialising in supporting young people from deprived areas to achieve outstanding academic attainment. It also has a strong track record opening and running Ofsted-outstanding Free Schools.

The colleges, when they open, will be overseen by a partnership board, chaired by Eton’s Vice-Provost, which will operate as a sub-committee of the Star Academies board of trustees.

The exact location of the schools will not be decided until the partnership board meets for the first time in the autumn. Together, Star and Eton are currently undertaking an extensive feasibility study of towns and cities in the north of England and in the West Midlands.

Similarly, the names of the schools will be decided by the partnership board at a later date.

Both Star and Eton are convinced that their unprecedented partnership represents a ground-breaking example of state and independent sector collaboration; and one that will not only benefit those attending these new colleges but will also provide new and exciting opportunities to students and teachers at Star’s existing family of schools and at Eton.

Star Academies Chief Executive Sir Hamid Patel said: “This is a fantastically exciting moment for both our organisations. Eton bringing its approach to education to disadvantaged communities, allied to our own successful ethos, has the potential to be transformative for both the students who will attend but also the wider civic lives of the towns and cities in which our new colleges will open. Our mission has always been to change lives for the better and give young people the best opportunities – this partnership will further help us achieve that.”

Eton Head Master Simon Henderson said: “When Eton announced in May 2020 our intention to set up these new sixth form colleges, we knew that finding the right partner could ensure that the project was greater than the sum of its parts. When speaking to Star it became immediately clear that, while our contexts may be different, we have a shared educational ethos and vision and I am confident that by working together we can deliver outstanding educational opportunities and outcomes to young people in these communities, which will surpass what either organisation could have achieved on our own.”

Eton Provost Lord William Waldegrave said: “Since King Henry VI founded Eton in 1440 to provide free education to 70 poor boys, Eton has long sought out ways to broaden our reach, to ensure that as many young people as possible can enjoy the benefits of our educational philosophy. I believe firmly that this partnership with Star is simply a new and exciting development in this long and proud history.”

Star Academies Chair of Trustees Kam Kothia DL said: “Star Academies has always been deeply committed to enhancing social mobility and seeking out new and exciting ways to change educational outcomes in the communities that we serve. We also believe in the power of partnership, and learning from other organisations. This unique partnership with Eton is a prime example of both.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I’m delighted to see Star Academies join forces with Eton College to focus on providing exciting opportunities for pupils. Our best schools can lead the way in driving up standards across the country, and it’s fantastic to see a leading trust like Star working to expand its reach even further into local communities, supported by the resources and expertise of one of the world’s top independent schools, to transform the life chances of young people.

“Projects like these, building on the network of excellent free schools around the country, can help level up opportunities for so many children and families and I wish the teams all the best as they begin the process of turning this pioneering idea into a reality.”

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