Breaking the glass ceiling

This is Shama. Shama was our deputy head girl in 2014-15 and finished year 11 in 2015. Shama left us to study sciences at Newcastle-under-Lyme College. However she took the brave and ultimately correct decision to change course to study English at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College.

Earlier this month, Shama became the first former academy student to be offered a place at Oxford or Cambridge University when she was offered a place to read English at Hertford College, Oxford.

I cannot tell you how proud we are of Shama. One of our own students; a local girl; the first in her family to go to university; is going to Oxford University.

There has been a lot written about social mobility in the press recently. The new Education Secretary Damian Hinds sees this as his priority as did his predecessor Justine Greening. Indeed only last week the plan for Stoke-on-Trent’s “Opportunity Area” was published. This is the plan to target 12 social mobility “black spots” nationally of which Stoke-on-Trent is one.

Social mobility doesn’t happen overnight. It is about generational change. It relies on communities, education providers, local government and businesses working together to change communities for the better. But it also needs pioneers, like Shama.

Our academy has to do our bit. We have to create generations of children who are more ambitious, have more skills and are better educated than their predecessors. More and more of our former students are going on to university, more are going on to more prestigious universities and more are studying some of the most in demand courses such as medicine, law and sciences. We celebrate our former students through our university honours boards.

Shama is a pioneer but behind her others will follow in her footsteps. We have to realise our students have to work harder than others nationally, be more resilient than more privileged peers and build more cultural capital to even start to level the playing field. But we are succeeding.....the generational change has started and Shama is a shining example of what students from this community and academy can achieve.

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