They haven’t had the advantages of many public school pupils, but these teenagers in one of the poorest parts of the country could give them a run for their money academically.
The 22 state-school pupils at the London Academy of Excellence have all been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge.
It means one in ten of the upper sixth at the selective free school in Stratford, east London, will be heading to Oxbridge if they achieve the required grades in the summer.
The results rival the success rate of many of Britain’s most famous public schools, some of which charge more than £30,000 a year in fees.
Such results have earned the school the nickname of the East End Eton.
These 22 state-school pupils at the London Academy of Excellence have all been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge. The school has been nicknamed the East End Eton
But unlike 578-year-old Eton College, LAE was only set up six years ago with the aim of getting bright children from poor families into top universities.
Many of those with Oxbridge offers are from working-class and immigrant homes and will be the first in their families to go to university.
I’ll be the first in my family to attend university
Mirana Kqiku, 18, is set to become the first person in her family to go to university after she received an offer to study French at Oriel College, Oxford.
She had never seriously considered applying to Oxbridge before moving to the London Academy of Excellence last year.
She said: ‘When I came to this school and I saw people go there I thought, “I could do it”.’
Mirana – whose parents moved to London from Kosovo, and whose first language is Albanian – gave up Friday evenings to practise interviews.
She said: ‘I got to go to Eton, where we had interviews with the staff.
‘Every Friday we would interview each other and talk about our subjects and current affairs. It built my confidence up.’
Mirana said she was looking forward to the ‘whole experience’ at Oxford, adding: ‘It’s a bit scary, but I’m excited.’
Headmaster Scott Baker said: ‘With hard work, the aspiration to succeed, excellent teaching and the right support and guidance, there really are no limits on what young people can achieve, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity or background.’
It is regarded as a model to tackle the stranglehold privately-educated children have on admissions to elite universities. The sixth-form school is open to students from London and Essex, with decisions to award places based on an interview and GCSE scores.
There are ten applicants for every place, and the academy is supported by six prestigious public schools, including Eton, which provides two English literature teachers, and Brighton College. Last year, it achieved a record 99 per cent of A-level grades in the A* to C range, compared with 77 per cent nationally.
Louis Baxter, 18, who hopes to read history at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, only thought of applying to Oxbridge after taking a practice admission test at the school out of curiosity.
He said: ‘I wanted to see how well I could do. I didn’t really think about it before.
‘I did alright so I thought about applying.’
He and his classmates spent four hours a night studying after school for several months to prepare for his Oxbridge entry test. Before Christmas, they held mock interviews with an actor at Eton College, which included practising shaking hands and making eye contact.
Headmaster Scott Baker said: ‘With hard work, the aspiration to succeed, excellent teaching and the right support and guidance, there really are no limits on what young people can achieve, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity or background’
He added: ‘They were really good at helping us. We sat down after school just going through potential questions. When it came to the interview we did a lot on how to stay confident. In the interview they asked me a question about one small sentence in my personal statement and it caught me by surprise. But after learning how to deal with unexpected questions I was able to give an answer.’
Fellow pupils include Romanian speaker Raluca Popan, who hopes to study history and modern languages at Cambridge, making her the first in her family to go to university; as is Shakila Akhtar, offered a place to take law at Oxford; and Bartek Staniszewski, who wants to do philosophy and theology at Oxford.
Louis put the academy’s success down to the attitude of pupils, adding: ‘It’s just the drive everyone has. Everybody is incredibly ambitious and wants to work hard.’
LAE was only set up six years ago with the aim of getting bright children from poor families into top universities. Many of those with Oxbridge offers are from working-class and immigrant homes and will be the first in their families to go to university