Star Academies and Eton College have today announced they intend to open three academic sixth form colleges in Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham.

The new post-16 colleges are being designed to give young people who have done well in their GCSEs the opportunity to achieve the A-levels they need to go to Oxbridge and other elite universities.

The partners intend to bid in the next wave of the Department for Education’s Free Schools Programme, a process expected to get underway in the next few months, with a view to the colleges welcoming their first students as soon as 2025. Political leaders in Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham are fully supportive – and are assisting the development of the proposals.

If these bids are successful, the new colleges will be part of Star Academies, which runs both primary and secondary schools in communities which face significant challenges, including in the North East and West Midlands. It is, by many measures, one of the best-performing multi-academy trusts in the country. The colleges will be overseen by a joint partnership board of representatives of Eton and Star Academies, which is chaired by Peter McKee a Star trustee and Eton’s Vice-Provost.

We have chosen Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham for good reason. These are areas where around a third of young people achieve five good passes at GCSE, but where fewer than 10% of students achieve the kind of A Level grades needed to win places at the top third of UK universities. We think we can help close that gap. These are areas with large (and growing) populations, where the demographics show that additional Sixth Form places will be needed over the next decade, and where we will be able to focus our admissions policies (which we are developing in collaboration with UCL’s Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities) around those who have faced a range of challenges, often with limited opportunities, and for whom our colleges will make a transformative difference.

These new colleges (which will be co-educational and free to attend) will blend Eton’s educational philosophy, including a rigorous and academic curriculum, with Star’s ethos, approach and extensive experience in this field. The curriculum will follow a tried and tested model, based on that of the London Academy of Excellence, a school that is sending 33 students from Newham, one of the capital’s most deprived boroughs, to Oxbridge this year. All students will start by taking four A-level courses, with a proportion dropping down to three once they are established at the school.

The colleges will admit 240 students per year and will offer many of the educational and co-curricular opportunities available to boys at Eton, including knowledge-rich teaching from subject-specialists; access to talks, academic essay prizes and debate clubs; Oxbridge-style tutorial sessions and the chance to learn Latin. Some of the curriculum will be delivered virtually by Eton masters and students from the new colleges will have a chance to attend Eton annually for a Summer School.

The colleges’ small size will allow them to target a very specific academic education and will ensure that they do not disrupt the existing pattern of local post-16 education.

Eton is committed to making an ongoing financial commitment to all three colleges in perpetuity, to ensure the development and provision of a deep and extensive curriculum offer, guaranteed to be provided in the long term.

Since King Henry VI founded Eton in 1440 to provide free education to 70 poor boys, Eton has long sought out ways to broaden its reach and to ensure that as many young people as possible can enjoy the benefits of its educational philosophy. Once these three colleges are fully established, they will educate 1440 young people. This happy, if coincidental, synergy with the year of our foundation reflects that the partnership with Star is but the latest exciting development in Eton’s long and proud history.

Political leaders in Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham councils and local authorities are hugely enthusiastic in their support for these bids, recognising the contribution the new colleges could make to the young people in the area.

Star Academies Chief Executive, Sir Hamid Patel CBE, said: “This marks an exciting milestone in our partnership. By harnessing our combined wealth of educational and operational expertise, we are confident that our colleges will produce extraordinary, transformative outcomes, not only for their students but for the wider communities too. Our mission has always been to change lives for the better and to open doors for young people to access the best opportunities, but these colleges will have a wider, positive impact throughout the communities of Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham. They will become anchor institutions that make a significant contribution by playing a leading role in addressing skills shortages and helping to drive up standards in education.”

Head Master of Eton, Simon Henderson, said: “We are delighted to be bidding to open these colleges in Dudley, Middlesbrough and Oldham. Our partnership with Star Academies is intended to ensure that the success of the project is greater than the sum of its parts. While our contexts may be different, our values are aligned and together we are committed, for the long-term, to sharing our educational vision and delivering outstanding educational opportunities to young people in these areas.”

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “This is a hugely exciting step forward for Dudley which will give young people from our area a tremendous academic opportunity to benefit from an Eton-style curriculum and teaching approach to help give some of our brightest Black Country students an accelerator to the top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge.

“We fully welcome this inclusive opportunity which removes boundaries and allows our own young people the chance many could only dream of.

“The inclusion of Dudley in this proposed scheme again shows the desire from outside to invest in Dudley and from a regeneration perspective a new-build development of this kind will complement our other new educational facilities including the new Dudley College buildings such as the Institute of Technology and the proposed Health Innovation Dudley on Castle Hill.

Middlesbrough Mayor, Andy Preston, said: “Eton College in Middlesbrough. It’s incredible to win the support and backing of the world’s most famous school – a phenomenal result.
“Thank you to Eton College and Star Academies for putting your faith in Middlesbrough and offering us your skills and resources to help boost the life chances of local youngsters – and put our town on the map.
“Central Middlesbrough is becoming a huge magnet for education and building a better life and this new addition to our brilliant colleges and excellent university makes us stand out across the north east of England – brilliant.”

Councillor Arooj Shah, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “My first and foremost responsibility is to fight for Oldham and draw in support and investment from every corner. I’ll work across political and ideological divides to make that happen.

“For a young person growing up in Oldham, this is really exciting news, and comes after a lot of hard work behind the scenes with Eton, and with Star, to make this fantastic idea a reality.

“Eton and Star both have an outstanding reputation in providing the very best education – and that’s why I’m delighted that we can bring this incredible opportunity here to Oldham.

“This new sixth form will open up world-class academic opportunities for Oldham’s young people– providing an unrivalled educational experience that will enable every child, wherever they live and whatever their background, to fulfil their potential.

“Together with the outstanding Sixth Form College, school sixth forms and Oldham College, we are a family which recognises we have a generational responsibility to invest in young people so they realise their full potential.

“This project will improve opportunities and education outcomes for not just the families who live here now, but for generations to come.”