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Some of England’s Elite Schools Open to the Poorest Pupils

Last week, at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) meeting, decisions to open some of England’s elite schools to the poorest English pupils were announced. One of the biggest problems throughout England is the quality of education available to the vast majority of low-income students—this occurring both as a result of price hikes and the onset of poverty as well as the abolishment of grammar schools all over the nation; from 1,200 in the 1960s, there are now only 165 grammar schools left throughout the entirety of England.

The conclusion of the recent NAHT gathering was that some of the top private schools are going to open 25% of their places to low-income English students to be able to give more underprivileged kids a shot at a good education. The NAHT also hopes to be able to get more private schools to help support government-funded academies, so as to ensure the quality of education given at these institutions that are, aside from their small state budget, often left to fend for themselves.

Some of the institutions which have readily signed up to help support these NAHT goals are Wellington College—which proudly holds the Prince Albert scheme, a means-testing based scholarship for students from low-income backgrounds that was named after Queen Victoria’s husband, a principal patron of the college who oversaw its very construction—along with the Philips Exeter Academy and Philips Andover in New England. These three schools are currently ranked the top in England as of 2014.

The studies conducted by the NAHT about the feasibility of this new policy have showed that low-income students who are eager to attain an education have adjusted very well to the rigors of private school life (the names of the cases listed have been changed). Simon, a student from a low-income background who’d gone to public school his entire life had gotten a scholarship to a very prestigious boarding school in New England—he readily adapted to the routines and says that he was the most satisfied (both intellectually and emotionally) while gaining his A-levels; he was able to get an AAB. Tasha, a student raised by a single father in East London who, before getting into Wellington College via the Prince Albert program thought that her dreams of working in the medical field were just that—dreams—has recently gotten into Oxford. She is going to study Biology to become a medic; an opportunity that she wouldn’t have been able to get at her public East London Council Estate school. Harry Randall (true name), a recent graduate of Wellington who was Head Boy during his senior year, is also heading out into the bigger world of higher education to pursue a degree in social welfare; before coming to Wellington at the age of 13, Harry had been on the cusp of failing out of school and hadn’t been motivated at all due to his poor living conditions—he says that the priority in his life is to be able to pursue a career that will allow him to help students from similar backgrounds.

While there aren’t yet any political or prevalent financial backers to help the initiative along, the schools involved are hoping that they will be able to set a good example for other academic institutions. They make a call to action for their colleagues to help improve education throughout the nation and do what they can to help bridge the divide between public and private school education, between the rich and the poor in England.



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