Eton College to open new centre in Dudley with pupils to be taught free of charge

The world-renowned Eton College is set to open a sixth form centre in the heart of the Black Country.

Eton College has educated many political and royal figures, including Prince Harry
Eton College has educated many political and royal figures, including Prince Harry

The school, famous for educating 20 British prime ministers – including Boris Johnson – has chosen Dudley as the site for one of three proposed satellite schools as part of the Government's 'levelling up' agenda.

If approved, the centre will open in three years' time, with the aim of providing an elite-level education free of charge to talented youngsters from less-affluent backgrounds.

Similar centres will be opened in Middlesbrough and Oldham, which were all identified as educational 'cold spots' on a list of areas to receive additional support.

The £44,000-a-year private school has partnered with Star Academies for the scheme, and will bid in the next wave of the Government's free school programme, with the colleges expected to welcome their first pupils by 2025.

Famed for producing world leaders, the college has been in talks with Dudley Council for some time over setting up a new sixth form free school in the town.

The aim is to help young people achieve the A-levels they need to go to Oxbridge and other elite universities.

It is part of the Department for Education’s Free School Programme, a process expected to begin in the next few months, with a view to the college welcoming their first students as soon as 2025.

Dudley Council leaders today hailed the prospect as a critical piece of the £1 billion regeneration plan which includes the Midland Metro extension, a light rail test track and innovation centre and a university campus at Castle Hill.

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said: “This is a hugely exciting step forward for Dudley which will give young people from our area a tremendous academic opportunity to benefit from an Eton-style curriculum and teaching approach to help give some of our brightest Black Country students an accelerator to the top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge.

“We fully welcome this inclusive opportunity which removes boundaries and allows our own young people the chance many could only dream of.

“The inclusion of Dudley in this proposed scheme again shows the desire from outside to invest in Dudley and from a regeneration perspective a new-build development of this kind will complement our other new educational facilities including the new Dudley College buildings such as the Institute of Technology and the proposed Health Innovation Dudley on Castle Hill."

Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “It is absolutely critical that we continue to provide opportunities for our young people to flourish. We are a child friendly Dudley and that means providing support and opportunities for children and families at every stage of their development so they can reach their full potential.

"We have made an initial pledge to Eton College and we look forward to working with them on making this a reality. The potential for local young people is limitless.

“Dudley borough really will offer young people every opportunity to succeed and fulfil their potential, from primary school through to A-levels with outstanding university prospects and job opportunities at the end of it.”

If the bid by Star Academies and Eton College is successful the new schools will be part of Blackburn-based Star Academies, which runs both primary and secondary schools in some of the most deprived communities in the North and West Midlands.

These co-ed schools would include access to some of Eton’s best teachers, its clubs and its speaker events. Students will also get help preparing for university applications and interviews.

The centre will be a completely new building. The location has yet to be revealed, but it is expected to be close to the centre of Dudley.

Eton, whose other famous pupils include the Duke of Sussex, will also assist pupils during the university application process, as well as with interview preparation, and they will be able to take part in summer residential programmes at Eton.

The centre will admit 240 students a year with Eton making a financial commitment 'in perpetuity' to fund the colleges.

Star Academies chief executive Sir Hamid Patel said: "We are confident that our colleges will produce extraordinary, transformative outcomes."

Simon Henderson, head master of Eton, said: "While our contexts may be different, our values are aligned and together we are committed, for the long term, to sharing our educational vision and delivering outstanding educational opportunities to young people in these areas."

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