On Friday 8th February, Chair of Governors David Wilson, Governor Jane Davies, the Warden and Director of Outreach attended a dinner to mark the continued success of the London Academy of Excellence.

This follows Forest’s recent decision to commit to strengthening further our already long-standing link with LAE and the dinner therefore provided an opportunity to celebrate the impact Forest (and the five other sponsorship schools) have had in creating this extraordinarily successful new school.

The London Academy of Excellence (LAE) in Stratford opened in September 2012 and was the first Sixth Form College to be set up under the government’s Free Schools scheme. It is academically selective, offers a curriculum of twelve core subjects only, and is supported by six partner schools including Forest School. In the ensuing six years no one could have foreseen the success of LAE which was named Sixth Form College of the Year in 2016 and now sends more than twenty pupils to Oxford and Cambridge every year, the majority of its others pupils going on to top Russell Group universities. This is a nationally outstanding result for a school in only its sixth year of operation. In the process, LAE has transformed the prospects of significant numbers of pupils who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to consider applying for some of the best universities in the world.

The school was set up with the aim of “getting bright children from poor families into the top universities”, priding itself on generating real social mobility in Newham, which is ranked England’s 25th most deprived borough and has London’s second highest poverty rate. In order to achieve this level of social mobility, children on free school meals, children in care, and residents of Newham are automatically offered places first as long as they meet the grade requirements. Unsurprisingly, competition for places is fierce.

Forest’s engagement with LAE is on a number of levels. From the outset in 2012, Forest staff were working with the LAE to set up their crucial university admissions systems, to help create a co-curricular programme and develop the House system, and to offer teaching as well. At an academic level, Heads of Department now meet regularly and share training; there has been an exciting Physics project taking place this year; LAE students regularly come to Forest for talks and critical thinking sessions, not to mention university entrance interview practice; while LAE staff have joined us for Safeguarding training, First Aid Training and numerous education conferences as well. In January it was good to see six LAE staff attending Forest’s Visible Learning inset with a specific focus on the impact of good feedback on pupil improvement. In addition, each House at LAE is linked to a partner school, so we enjoy hosting the pupils of Forest House here at Forest for a day each year.

At a governance level, the Warden of Forest is a governor of LAE, visiting the school regularly to meet pupils and staff, discuss strategy and to attend Governor Meetings. Scott Baker, the current Head who has become a close friend of Forest, is keen to exploit Forest’s proximity to LAE to ensure our partnership continues to thrive.

We firmly believe in the benefits that our sponsorship of LAE (along with co-sponsors Highgate, Caterham, Eton, University College School and Brighton College) brings to Forest, particularly the opportunities to share best practice in learning and teaching methods and the professional development of staff as well as it being a partnership which allows us to engage with Newham as a neighbouring borough.

The Warden, Marcus Cliff Hodges, said: ‘Forest should be extremely proud of the part it has played in helping set up this truly inspiring school. It has been wonderful to get to know pupils there, to follow their progress and to know that we have been able to contribute directly to their success. As we go forward, I would like to see Forest and LAE sharing even more, learning from each other, and for even more members of the Forest community to get to know our partner school.’

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