I could not have imagined, in my wildest dreams, that 1 in 20 of our Year 11 students last year would have got scholarships estimated at a collective total of one million pounds to some of the most prestigious independent schools in the world as part of our ‘prestigious colleges’ programme. Cumberland Community School is situated in one of the most deprived boroughs in London, but poverty is not a barrier to success in our school. However, more than half of children (52%) are judged to be in households in poverty, compared to 38% in the typical London borough.
When we select the students we put them through a rigorous process similar to what they would experience when they go through the real thing. Although we encourage all students to take part, we are realistic in our approach because we know that the ones that would ultimately qualify for full bursary are those who are either Pupil Premium or from low-income families. Once the selection process is concluded, we allocate each student a mentor and they receive etiquette lessons, tuition and interview preparation lessons all courtesy of the school. We go the extra mile for our students because we want to give them the best possible opportunity to succeed in what will be a life-changing opportunity for themselves and their families.
Over the last three years since we started running this initiative in our school, many students have benefited from this successful programme. Some often ask, why bother? Why do we run this programme? The answer is easy, we want to beat inequality and we want to give our students every chance to succeed when it comes to going to Oxbridge or ending up with a top job. According to a survey conducted by the Sutton Trust, privately schooled people dominate law, politics, medicine and journalism. The report states that, although only 7% of the population is privately educated, 71% of top military officers, 74% of top judges, and 51% of leading print journalists are privately educated; therefore we want to give our students a piece of this life-changing opportunity.
We are really proud of the partnerships that we have built over the years with the independent sector and we will continue to push boundaries to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor because we owe it to our students and the wider community that we serve.