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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Rob Parsons

Eton College promises its new sixth form in Oldham will be a 'good neighbour'

The deputy head of Eton College has promised its new selective sixth form in Oldham will be a "good neighbour" as he revealed a number of local schools had agreed to join a partnership with the famous boarding school.

The private college where world leaders and royals have been educated is waiting to see if it can progress with its plan for three selective sixth-form free schools, one in Oldham and two others in Middlesbrough and Dudley.

The proposal is designed to open up Oxbridge and other elite universities to students in the towns, all of which are education 'cold spots' identified in the Government's Levelling Up paper.

The £44,000-a-year private school in Berkshire has partnered with Lancashire-based Star Academies for the scheme and is bidding in the current wave of the Government's free school programme.

Writing today in The Northern Agenda politics newsletter, Tom Arbuthnott, deputy head (partnerships) of Eton College, said its interest in Oldham "goes much deeper than just wanting to open a new college (however important we think it will be)".

Read the article in full in today's Northern Agenda - visit

He writes: "It was to inform these plans that have undertaken a learning journey around the north of Greater Manchester in the last 12 months. In the process we have made new friends, shared experiences, struck alliances, had many fascinating discussions and a few robust conversations.

"We have had the pleasure of visiting many amazing schools and colleges that are doing amazing jobs, sometimes in incredibly challenging circumstances. They have been welcoming, accommodating and we have learnt extraordinary lessons from them all.

"A visit to Oldham Sixth Form College last month was a case in point. We heard about the hard work of the teachers and senior staff and the brilliant education on offer.

"We are delighted that a great number of these secondary schools, across Oldham and the north of Greater Manchester, have agreed to join a partnership to help us improve the life chances of as many young people in the town as possible.

"Through this network, teachers in Oldham will work together with colleagues from Eton on professional development, hundreds of students will have the opportunity to have residential trips to our site in Windsor and many thousands more will have free access to our online learning platform EtonX.

"Colleagues of mine at Eton have already told me enthusiastically of the many lessons they have learned from their new contacts in the North West – and how excited they are to build on these new relationships."

Pupils at the new 'Etons of the North' are expected to be selected based on GCSE results and their background. Priority will be given to those eligible for free school meals, looked-after children, those from the most deprived postcodes and those who would be the first in their family to go to university.

But not everyone is happy with the idea and last year Mark Giles, the principal of Hathershaw College, which is part of the Pinnacle Trust along with Oldham Sixth Form College, said it "could have the unintended consequence of leading to gaps widening".

According to the Oldham Times, Mr Giles said: “The rationality of elite sixth form colleges is to take children who have got grades 8 or 9 and make sure they are socially mobile, but my opinion is that children who leave school with those grades are socially mobile by virtue of the fact that they have excellent GCSE grades and can already access those Russell Group universities.

“My concern is for young people, who perhaps get grades 4 or 5s in their GCSEs, that could fall out of the education system by not having performed as well as they could do at school for a variety of reasons.”

In his article, Mr Arbuthnott writes that Eton's new base "will add to the local community of schools and sixth forms, and not disrupt it".

He adds: "We know for a fact that there will be a surge in demand for sixth form places in the area and, while we are convinced we will have something educationally unique to offer, this will allow us to open in partnership with local education providers, not in competition.

"In short, we are determined to be good neighbours and play a role in the local education ecosystem.

"These bonds are already so strong that I can confidently say that they will last, whatever the Department for Education decides about our plans for the new sixth form colleges. Eton is completely committed to the whole town of Oldham and its fantastic young people."

Read more of today's top stories here


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