Catherine McGuinness: Time to bridge the learning gap


You’d have to be on a desert island to miss the fact that in the last two weeks pupils across the capital have received their A-Level and GCSE exam results.

This has been a year like no other. Not only has every school had to adapt and find new ways of working following closures forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the way in which results have been awarded in the absence of exams has changed and changed again, with huge stress for all concerned, and most particularly the pupils.

We know though that a lot of hard work and dedication went into preparing for exams and coursework, not only from the pupils themselves, but also from teachers, support staff and parents, and this deserves celebrating.

And I’m proud that pupils in the City of London Academies Trust, which runs eight academies sponsored by the City of London Corporation in Hackney, Newham, Islington and Southwark, has some real success stories to tell.

At Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre, four pupils were awarded a total of £1 million in scholarships from top American universities.

The school, based in East Ham, runs a US university preparation programme which includes a paid tour of the Ivy League universities, mentoring advice and guidance for those looking to study overseas.

But as we look across society, we still see that many of the best paid jobs in the corporate world are secured by people from privileged backgrounds who have had an elite education.

This situation creates huge hurdles for people from less advantaged backgrounds, who can struggle to find a place or make progress within the workforce.

There are many bright and talented young people from across society who are hungry for the opportunity to progress and do well.

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I strongly believe that as a business community we must do more to ensure they receive the guidance, support and – most importantly – the opportunity to find a career that they are passionate about.

The City of London Academies Trust has twice been named by social mobility charity Sutton Trust as the UK’s best academy sponsor for empowering pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to perform above the national average.

Many of our academies are located in some of the most underprivileged areas of the capital – and their links with London’s firms have served them well.

And as a leading academy sponsor, we are working hard to help develop young Londoners into successful adults who make a positive contribution to their local, national and global communities.

That’s why we invited over 850 youngsters from six academies to attend summer catch-up programmes to bridge learning gaps caused by lockdown school closures.

And it’s why this September we will give more than 1,500 young Londoners in 10 schools extra support to bridge learning gaps caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.

This year’s results just goes to show that through hard work, dedication and the right support and guidance, the next generation can flourish and create lasting value for London and the UK.

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