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London Academy of Excellence (Highgate School)

LAE is a free school set up by a number of independent schools in Newham, east London. The initial idea came from head of Kingsford Community School nearby. She had met the head of Brighton College, and they already had a scheme whereby Brighton College offered sixth form scholarships to a small number of Kingsford students. However, this scheme could do little to help with a big issue in Newham – the fact that A-level results and university entry were generally poor in the borough. Many students had to leave the borough for their sixth form education. In 2011 only three students living Newham went to Oxford or Cambridge universities.

The school was set up under Michael Gove’s free schools initiative and opened in 2012 with 200 pupils in Year 12.


It had three aims:

1. To increase the supply of A-level places in Newham.

2. To increase the quality of A-level results and thus university entry.

3. To establish a broad approach to education based on what we see in independent schools including sport.


1. Popularity: we had over 2000 applicants for 200 places in 2015.

2. Provocation: the local authority reacted to our presence by setting up their own sixth form Academy on very similar lines to LAE.

3. An example followed by others: in 2013 the Harris group set up Harris Westminster sixth form academy modelled on LAE.

4. Results: In our first year we doubled the number of pupils in the whole borough going to Oxford and Cambridge. In 2015 seven out of ten A-level grades were A*-B, the majority of the students going on to Russell Group universities. In 2015 the Academy became the Sunday Times school of the year. Click here to read the news coverage.