Working class teenagers 'can break the mould', head says

Local kids "should be able to access ambitious and aspirational outcomes" despite growing up in a disadvantaged area, the headmaster of a London school has said.

Adam Pettitt, head of Highgate School in north London, announced plans for a partnership with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club to create a new state-funded sixth form in the capital.

The London Academy of Excellence Tottenham (LAET), which plans to start admitting Year 12 students in September 2017, will aim to help bright teenagers into the best jobs and universities.

Pettitt said: "The idea that working class people don't wish to work hard or that disadvantaged children don't want to work hard or aspire is wrong.

"If you keep repeating it, of course it becomes true."

It was "difficult" for parents who have not had the "transformational experience of good teaching or the opportunity to go to university", he said, but that they could learn from other communities.

"High achievement in this country is still associated with class ... it can be the preserve of people whose parents have already gone to university, and it needn't be the case."

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane (Martin Rickett/PA)
Tottenham Hotspur's financial support has enabled the project to go ahead (Martin Rickett/PA)

The value placed on education by "some immigrant communities" meant they studied hard and succeeded, regardless of background, according to the headmaster.

He said that students should not be "frightened about the social constructs that are there - they can all be understood and unpicked".

"I would love to think that we could be part of something which meant that there were fewer and fewer communities where you can say by being a member of that community you are less likely to go to university."

Highgate School (Yui Mok/PA)
Highgate School in north London (Yui Mok/PA)

Modelled on the LAE in Stratford - nicknamed Eton of the East End - the Tottenham school will prioritise admissions from local pupils who are likely to benefit from an "academically-rigorous curriculum", as well as those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Pettitt said that if the school was a success, he hoped other public schools would follow suit.

"I think it would be brilliant and fantastic if after two or three years' apprenticeship other schools wanted to do the same thing in similar parts of London."

But he admitted that it was "early days".

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