As far as the liberal press goes, I’m probably part of the privilege problem in today’s society. I went to a small private school (although my brother went to the local comp). Then I got a place at Oxford University to study English.
I count myself lucky, very lucky. The experience at Oxford was amazing: the setting, the teaching, the people I met, the friends I made, and the experience it has given me.
I never imagined going to a place like that (I lived in Catford after all!), until a teacher suggested it to me in the Sixth Form and then proceeded to coach, support and prepare me for the interview and exam – all outside of hours.
So I was fortunate, not simply because of the school I went to, but because I met someone who believed in me enough to help me to achieve something that no-one in my family would ever have dreamed of.
Recently I met Paul Coupar-Hennessy. He’s another amazing person who set out to help students from less privileged backgrounds to do something that may have seemed way out of reach – win a place at an elite university.
He is the founder of the Linacre Institute, which aims to help Sixth Formers at comprehensive schools and colleges in the north of England reach the UK’s most competitive universities, where they are currently very under-represented.
They provide a range of teaching, support and residential programmes to students to help them fulfil their potential. It’s not simply about providing great teaching and insights; often an important factor is helping students to see that this is a realistic and worthwhile aspiration.
In the last round, 70% of Linacre Trust applicants won places at Cambridge, Oxford or Imperial, against a national average of 1 in 5. That’s a better ratio than any school in the country, including the most academically selective independent schools – Eton, Westminster etc.
I’m proud to support Linacre Trust – and I’d encourage you too to take a look, whether as a company, an employer or simply as an individual with something to share.