On Wednesday 2 March, teachers and pupils from Eastside Young Leaders Academy (EYLA) travelled to Eton College for a day of activities and lively discussions. EYLA’s aim is to nurture and develop the leaders of tomorrow from London’s communities, and the children they work with come from lots of different schools in East London. Leiden B, in Year 12 at Eton, was part of the team of boys showing them around. He told the press office more about the day.

EYLA began their visit by exploring the Foundation Buildings. They knew a lot about Eton already, but showed great interest in both the history and current life of the school. The pupils from EYLA then played tchoukball and, after learning the rules, play progressed speedily and the cheers after each score really brought the game to life!

Afterwards, we met the EYLA pupils over coffee, tea and biscuits. The EYLA pupils asked us a number of thought-provoking questions, with topics including Eton’s educational mission and life at Eton. The EYLA pupils were particularly interested in how manageable the workload is for Eton’s pupils, and many were intrigued about the stories of those who joined Eton in Year 12 as Orwell Award holders.  

The Etonians were just as curious to learn about the life experiences of the EYLA pupils. What quickly became apparent to all present was how much we had in common, especially concerning our various hobbies and the demands of everyday school life. As we returned to our lessons, the EYLA pupils met with Mr Isama, Eton’s Inclusion Officer, who started at Eton as a pupil and returned to teach economics. The Q&A sparked discussions around coping with academic pressure, keeping links open with home, and the increasing diversity of Eton’s staff and pupil bodies. EYLA then headed to the Drawing Schools for a creative session of block printing.

We reconvened for lunch at Bekynton, where a number of Eton’s pupils enjoy lunch every day and the familiar long thin tables allowed for more intimate conversations.

Those of us who were fortunate to meet members of EYLA and spend time with our peers remarked afterwards that it had been a fantastic opportunity. Indeed, several of us had worked with our EYLA counterparts on various projects in the past, and it was great to see them again. One of the real strengths of our collaboration with EYLA is that it is more than just a one-off activity. Through our many intersections over the academic year, it is already apparent that friendships are being made that will last long into the future. 

Thanks go to Eleanor Chownsmith, Misha Mehta and the staff from EYLA for organising such an action-packed and fun day for all.