Express & Star

How Eton is working with a Black Country academy to improve education standards

The world-famous Eton College has struck up a partnership with a secondary school in the Black Country to drive up teaching standards.

Eton College

Eton, has been working with The Link Academy in Dudley on a number of projects.

The famous boarding school, whose former pupils include Prince Harry, actor Tom Hiddlestone, and Foreign Secretary David Cameron, also plans to open a new sixth-form centre in Dudley in time for the 2025/26 academic year.

In a joint article for the Express & Star, Emma Edwards-Morgan, principal of The Link Academy in Hill Street, Netherton, and Sean Costello, head of educational opportunity at Eton College, near Windsor, have explained how they are working together to improve educational opportunities for pupils at their respective schools.

They describe their partnership as being 'like the original odd couple', but explain how the differences between the two schools help them both to see education from a different perspective.

Link Academy, formerly Hillcrest School, is now part of the Dudley Academies Trust, which runs four secondary and two primary schools in the town.

Pupils at The Link Academy have been using the Eton X online learning programme as part of the 'Orwell Pathway' for pupils aged 11-13.

Eton and the Dudley Academies Trust has also been looking at how they may benefit from advances in educational technology over the coming years.

There are also plans for Link Academy pupils to spend time at Eton College.

Sean Costello, of Eton College (Left) and Emma Edwards-Morgan, principal of The Link Academy (Right).

By Sean Costello, of Eton College, and Emma Edwards-Morgan, principal of The Link Academy:

They say that no two days are ever the same in teaching – and it's true that you can never predict what’s around the corner. That is part of the joy of a career in schools: the unpredictability is what gets you out of bed, even in the dark days of the depths of winter such as these.

We might have become used to the serendipity of professional life we had both become, but it still remains a wonderful surprise to us that our two institutions – Eton College near Windsor and the Link Academy in Dudley, which are, on the face of it, so different – have found themselves working in close partnership in the interests of young people in the Black Country.

Of course, many readers of the Express & Star will be aware of Eton’s plans to open a new sixth form college in Dudley town centre with Star Academies (a wonderful state school trust), but you might be surprised to read that Eton is already working with lots of schools in the area.

None more so than The Link Academy.

The work we are doing together is incredibly exciting for both of us, as education professionals and for the students who attend the Link.

We feel confident that together we are already changing lives for the better.

But what does that look like in practice?

Primarily this is about giving Black Country access to educational opportunities that would normally be unavailable in state secondaries.

The “Orwell Pathway”, currently being undertaken by several year sevens and eights, is a great example. Named after one of the most famous Old Etonians of all, the socialist writer George Orwell, this initiative sees participants get the chance to enhance and enrich their academic studies, often through the Eton X learning platform. This extra learning, we are sure, will allow the students go on and thrive academically and maybe even attend the Eton Star college when it opens in a couple of years.

What else is happening?

Another good case study is how staff at The Link Academy have started working with Eton’s world-class research centre (the “Eton Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning”) on how teachers in Eton and in Dudley can collaborate to drive up standards. It is already obvious that we can learn from each other and perhaps even carry our education research together.

Similarly, Eton has recently been working with teachers from across the Dudley Academies Trust (of which The Link Academy is part) to explore he extraordinary possibilities of educational technology in the future.

There is so much more going on – including the prospect of Link Academy students heading down to Eton for a visit and work that Eton has been doing with local parents too – that this really does feel like the beginning of an extraordinary relationship, one that could genuinely lead to some phenomenal outcomes for young people at the Link Academy and beyond.

All relationships can seem odd from the outside – and our schools might look like the “original odd couple” to observers – but, honestly, there’s incredible chemistry. We’re in it for the long-haul.