City solicitor turned East End teacher set to send 95% of pupils to Russell Group unis

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By Katie King on

Two students even went to White & Case’s Abu Dhabi office for work experience

Image via The NCS

A head teacher who packed in his City solicitor career is on the cusp of sending a whopping 95% of his students to Russell Group universities.

Having studied at the London School of Economics and at BPP Law School, Mouhssin Ismail looked set for a glittering corporate law career when he landed a place at Eversheds (now Eversheds Sutherland). After two years there, he joined Norton Rose Fulbright — a firm that pays its newly qualified solicitors £75,000.

But having grown dissatisfied with his career, Ismail cleared his desk and plunged himself into student life. After training at the UCL Institute of Education, he became a teacher at Seven Kings High School, a state school in Ilford, before climbing up the education ranks to make Newham Collegiate Sixth Form principal in 2014. Government stats show head teachers can earn up to £116,000 in the capital.

The London borough of Newham, a young Ismail’s stomping ground, doesn’t quite ooze the wealth and glamour of City life. For a start, its child poverty level (41%) is the second highest in London, and it has one of the city’s highest unemployment rates (9%).

Image via London’s Poverty Profile

Most interestingly for present purposes is the borough’s university progression. Research by London Councils shows that, between 2005 and 2011, 8% of Newham’s young residents went on to study at a Russell Group institution.

With Ismail at the helm of Newham Collegiate Sixth Form — which says it caters for “the most able students in East London” — 95% of pupils have secured offers to study at Russell Group universities. Last year (the only Year 13 comparison we can make because the sixth form is so new) 85% did the same. Nine of this year’s bunch have had offers from either Oxford or Cambridge, while one has secured a place at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Ismail’s method, he told the Evening Standard, is to “prepare our students the way they would be prepared at top private schools.” So how does Newham Collegiate Sixth Form stack up against arguably the most prestigious private school of them all, Eton?

We can tell you that, annually, 60-100 Eton boys make successful applications to Oxford or Cambridge. Given that the year group is approximately 270-strong, a (staggering) 22%-37% of pupils are Oxbridge-bound each year. This is compared to 5% at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form. Twenty-two pupils at Berkshire boarding school Wellington College have 2017 Oxbridge offers, while the same can be said of 11 students at Kate Middleton’s former school, Marlborough College.

Regardless, student opportunities at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form are impressive. They include (pretty randomly, considering the school is located less than ten miles away from the City) spending time at the Abu Dhabi office of US titan White & Case. Two students enjoyed this trip. Newham Collegiate Sixth Form’s website states politics students have visited the European Parliament, the Senate in Washington and the United Nations in New York, and science students have spent two weeks in Japan. Ismail said:

If pupils have on their CV a week-long work experience placement at White & Case, it is inevitably going to make them stand out when applying for jobs.

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