Boarding school headteacher offers advice to Forest Gate students

Phillip Cranwell and Gillian DuCharme with Forest Gate Community School students

Phillip Cranwell and Gillian DuCharme with Forest Gate Community School students - Credit: Archant

Back in 1997, headteacher Gillian DuCharme traded a Kent boarding school that counts Princess Anne among its alumni for an east London comprehensive for a BBC documentary.

Now, almost two decades on from when A Class Apart first aired, she has returned to Forest Gate Community School to see how it has changed over time.

Gillian, who was in charge of the independent Benenden School between 1985 and 2000, spoke to a group of students at the Forest Lane, Forest Gate, school on Wednesday to advise scholarship programme students on writing personal statements and how to impress at interviews.

She said: “It was a privilege to speak to these very bright and engaged young people.

“They have absolutely no reasons to be afraid or daunted in any way.

“They are being supported wonderfully by the headteacher and staff at this school, a place that has been completely transformed since I was last here.”

Gillian was joined by Phillip Cranwell, who won a scholarship to Bedford School, Bedfordshire, aged 11.

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The 49-year-old said: “After hearing about this programme, as the beneficiary of a scholarship myself, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with.

“I told them not to have any fear when they go to the interviews to be themselves and make sure that shines through.”

The scholarship programme at Forest Gate has seen four students win places at top independent schools, including Eton College and Winchester College.

There are currently 20 pupils in Year 10 who are in the process of applying for scholarships at a variety of prestigious institutions.

Gavin Choy, 15, from Maryland, has his sites set on Eton.

He said: “It was really helpful hearing from Gillian and Phillip. It is a bit daunting thinking about trying to get into these historic schools.

“It has helped to take the pressure off a little bit and to get us a bit more focus on what it is we have to do to be successful.”

Headteacher Simon Elliott said that even after receiving an outstanding Ofsted report, the school was striving to improve by offering its students the best possible opportunities.