No fist bumps and 6am starts: How Brampton Manor Academy in deprived area outstripped posh Eton for Oxbridge offers
11th March 2021

NESTLED within one of the nation’s poorest areas, Brampton Manor Academy is a beacon hope for state school pupils dreaming of attending the top universities.

Fifty-five teenagers from the school in East London have been offered Oxbridge places this autumn, while just 48 at £42,000-a-year Eton were chosen.

Oxford and Cambridge have faced accusations in recent years of shunning ethnically diverse talents.

But at Brampton Manor, two thirds of pupils have English as a second language and 95 per cent are from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.

It was once a struggling school blighted by trouble, with one of the teachers poisoned by a student in 2006 and a year, later 13-year-old pupil Deividas Strizegauskas was kicked to death during a gang war with a neighbouring school.

But in less than a decade, Brampton Manor has been transformed by disciplinarian headteacher Dr Dayo Olukoshi, who demands the highest standards.

Fist bumps are banned, there’s no calling teachers by their first names and pupils often come in voluntarily at 6 o’clock in the morning and don’t leave until 12 hours later.

No loss of learning during lockdown

Headlines have been dominated by stories about poor kids being denied their chance to attend Russell Group universities by Covid chaos.

But at Brampton Manor, the teachers believe their students have not suffered a reduced education during lockdown.

Sixth form head Sam Dobin told The Sun: “We don’t buy into this idea that there has been a huge amount of learning loss, because throughout the pandemic we continue to teach lessons online.

“Our students are receiving exactly the same education as they would in school. I think we need to get away from the excuse culture of saying there has been learning loss.”

We need to get away from the excuse culture of saying there has been learning loss

Brampton Manor is in Newham, London’s second poorest borough where 37 per cent of the population live in poverty.

All of the students tell of a competitive atmosphere at the sixth form which only opened up in 2012.

Fulfilling our potential

The ethos is that they have just as much chance of getting into the best universities as anyone else if they put the work in.

Sam adds: “We have normalised the idea of our students aiming for Oxbridge. It is a myth that those universities don’t want students from less well-off families.”

It is a myth that those universities don’t want students from less well-off families

But while the number of state school pupils getting into the best universities is increasing, public school ones are still disproportionately overrepresented.

Only seven percent of UK pupils attend fee-paying institutions, yet 30 percent of students at Oxbridge went to private schools.

One of the students bucking that trend is 18-year-old Harun Shekoni, from Redbridge in East London.

By studying from 6am until 6pm at Brampton Manor he has managed to be offered a place at Oxford taking Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

I come in at 6am because I am an early riser

Harun, who is predicted to achieve A* grades in four A-Levels, told The Sun: “The environment of studious students pushes you more.

“I come in at 6am because I am an early riser, study my subjects, then complete my lessons for the day, perhaps do some debate or other extracurricular activities or extra study you need to do.”

The only breadwinner at home is his mum, who works part-time as a health care assistant, but he doesn’t see why that should hold him back.

Harun explains: “At Brampton what they put an emphasis on is fulfilling our potential.

“Even though I live in a single parent household I didn’t believe that would hinder my progress.”

While the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson decided to scrap exams this summer because pupils had lost so much learning time, Brampton Manor pupils will still be rigorously assessed under as always.

Harun says: “We are going to do mock exams, which will emulate the real exam experience.

“I don’t really see it as not taking exams, so I am still focused on my studies. We are keeping our motivation up.”

'I was scared at the interview'

Tasnia Tahsin, who was born in Bangladesh, has been offered a place at Cambridge studying Human, Social and Political Sciences.

The 17-year-old from Waltham Forest was “scared” when she had her interview in order to see if she would go to the prestigious university.

Tasnia, who is predicted to achieve A* and two A grades, says: “I was very scared for that interview. It is intimidating, but our school did try to prepare us for the interviews.”

She thinks that she will be “pretty different from your typical Eton candidate” because she comes from a working-class background. 

I'm pretty different from your typical Eton candidate

Her mum is a care worker and her dad recently found an admin job.

Tasnia says Brampton Manor is different from other sixth forms.

She explains: “Compared to my friends at different colleges and sixth forms it seems so different here, for example, we have to wear school uniforms every day. I like it, it saves me time in the morning.”

And Tasnia doesn’t think remote learning has affected her studies.

She says: “I would argue that we are further ahead than we would have been before the pandemic. We haven’t missed out on content.”

Afrin Patel, 18, knows that she won’t be your typical engineering student at Cambridge, which has offered her a place.

She says: “No one comes from a well-paid background at Brampton. I am Asian Indian and I am a female in engineering, so I am not someone you usually expect to apply for Cambridge.”

But Brampton Manor school told her she could achieve whatever she wanted to.

Afrin, whose dad is a postal worker and mum works at a school, says: “Brampton tells you from the get-go that if you work hard you will get what you deserve and that there are no limits to what you can achieve.

“They encourage you to apply for these types of schools.”

Afrin, who is predicted to receive three A* and an A at A-Level, adds: “I have always been interested in engineering and product design. The idea that you can make something from scratch that could help so many people.”

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