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New Newham free school gears up for first day of term

PUBLISHED: 16:30 05 September 2012 | UPDATED: 16:38 05 September 2012

Robert Wilne, headteacher at London Academy of Excellence

Robert Wilne, headteacher at London Academy of Excellence

Archant

Fine tuning is taking place at the soon-to-be opened Stratford sixth-form ahead of the new term.

A total of 220 new pupils turned up at the London Academy of Excellence (LAE) on Friday to register after receiving their GCSE results.

It is the first sixth form college to be set up under the government’s free schools scheme.

Teachers have been trained over the last few weeks in their chosen subjects, and builders have been revamping the Broadway House headquarters overnight during the Olympics.

The school will open on September 10, a day after the Paralympics closing ceremony at the nearby Olympic Park.

Headteacher Robert Wilne said excitement is building.

He said: “We were heavily oversubscribed and have a very long waiting list.

“The builders have done a marvellous job managing the work over the Olympics and I am very pleased by the progress that has been made.

“The site we have (former council offices) is a wonderful building so was a straightforward conversion.”

The LAE is backed by independent schools, including Eton, Brighton College and Mr Wilne’s former college, Highgate School.

It offers a dozen traditional A-level subjects, including mathematics, economics, chemistry, and English literature

But the LAE’s necessity was questioned by Newham’s existing sixth forms, Newham College and NewVIc college.

Newham Council also confirmed that it had approached “leading universities” about setting up a new sixth-form college.

Meanwhile, last month’s collapse of another planned Newham free school raised doubt over whether the government scheme would work in Newham.

Mr Wilne said: “Once we are up and running I would hope to invite people round, including Eddie (Playfair, the NewVIc principal) to show what are doing.

“My heart goes out to the Newham free school because I know how hard it can be to set one up.”

A bullish Mr Playfair, celebrating after his college achieved its best ever A-level results this year - a 96 per cent pass rate - said he was relishing the competition.

He said: “We are confident that NewVIc remains a very good choice for students of all backgrounds, including the very highest achieving students.

“Obviously more competition means we all have to work harder to recruit.

“But I think there is a need for a debate in Newham about what we want from post-16 education and what the best way is to go about it.”


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