Plaistow school introduces etiquette lessons

The Cumberland School, Plaistow, has introduced etiquette lessons

Etiquette coach Laura Akano is teaching students how to dress, communicate and conduct themselves. - Credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service

A school has hired an elocution coach to teach students how sit and speak like royalty in a bid to win scholarships to top private schools.

The Cumberland School, in Plaistow, has brought in etiquette coach Laura Akano, who is giving students tips on how dress, communicate and conduct themselves.

They have even learned the “Duchess Slant”- the sitting position favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge.

The course is costing thousands of pounds but the school insists the money is worth it.

Since starting its Prestigious Colleges Programme two years ago the school has sent dozens of disadvantaged students to top fee-paying colleges, including Eton and Kings. 

This year Ella Wellingbrook won a £42,000 scholarship to the exclusive Francis Holland school in Sloane Square.

She said: “I really think the training I got from Laura helped me at my interview. I felt more confident and I knew the right way to meet and greet the person interviewing me.”

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Headteacher Omar Deria said: “We have absolutely no worries about our students’ academic ability but the social environment they are entering may be wholly unfamiliar.

“This isn’t about changing who they are or the way they act. It’s about making sure they are as confident as they can be during interviews and at their new schools.

“We want to level the playing field and give our students every chance to compete with those who have come from wealthier backgrounds.

“The skills they learn won’t just help them in their new schools, but later in life as well. They’re learning little things, such as what fork to use at a fancy dinner, as well as how to what’s expected at job and university interviews. I’ve picked up a few tips myself.”

Ms Akano, who featured on BBC 2 documentary Back in Time for School, said: “This is not about putting on airs and graces and asking them to be something they are not. It is about giving them the confidence to excel during interviews.

“These are skills that people from middle and upper-class backgrounds have by birth right. The students at Cumberland do not have that.

“I applaud a school where most of the children are from working class backgrounds that wants the best for their students.”