A state school in a deprived area of east London has secured more Oxbridge offers than Eton College.
A record-breaking 55 pupils at Brampton Manor Academy in Newham have received conditional offers to study at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge this year, which is more than leading independent schools.
At Eton, where Boris Johnson studied, 48 pupils secured Oxbridge offers, a fall from 69 last year.
Brampton Manor Academy – which was praised by grime artist Stormzy for its A-level results – has seen more than 100 students receive offers from the prestigious universities in the past two years.
The majority are from ethnic minority backgrounds, in receipt of free school meals (FSMs) or will be the first in their family to attend university.
In 2014, just one student received an offer for Oxbridge, but by last year this had risen to 51.
Sonja, who plans to study human, social and political science at Cambridge, said: “Being the first person in my family to submit an application to university, let alone get an offer from the University of Cambridge, feels incredible.
“My family were so full of joy when they found out about my offer and we are all so excited for the next chapter in my life.”
Harun Shekoni, who received an offer to study politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, is also a first-generation applicant to university.
He faced additional pressures at home which made studying remotely last year particularly difficult. “I don’t always have adequate resources to study and I don’t have a proper work station at home,” he said.
Harun told the PA news agency: “Here at Brampton, what was actually an eye-opener for me is the fact that there are so many like-minded students who are so motivated and they all come from similar backgrounds to me.
“So I come from a low-income single-parent household and I was thinking ‘OK I’m going to be the odd one out’.
“But there are many others who actually have the same background to me and we all kind of push each other on to say that there’s no reason why our background should hinder us from actually reaching success.”
Daniel Harry, who received an offer to study law at Cambridge, told PA: “In general, it definitely feels great to finally see that state school students are getting the recognition that they really do deserve.
“I guess it’s just the fact that talent from underrepresented backgrounds are finally being recognised. It’s finally being seen as a good thing for students of all backgrounds to get into the top universities.”
Daniel has not yet been able to visit the prestigious university. He said: “It feels like a world apart from where I live currently, being an inner-city kind of child, but at the same time it definitely is something that I would like to experience given the academic and cultural history that Cambridge does have.”
Delveen Nyarko-Sakyi, who has been offered a place to study chemistry at Oxford, is the first in her family to go to university.
She told PA: “We never looked at Eton and said ‘oh we want to be like them’, it was just about the individual working hard.”
Delveen added: “I think it’s important for us to encourage other people like me who wouldn’t see themselves going to Oxford or Cambridge to apply as well.”
Chloe Wills, an offer holder for natural sciences at Cambridge who is eligible for FSMs, is convinced that instilling self-belief in students is a crucial way to widen access to elite institutions.
She said: “An important part of applying to top universities is believing that you actually have a chance, which Brampton reassures you of from the beginning.”
Sam Dobin, director of sixth form at Brampton, said self-belief is just one piece of the jigsaw that enables students to succeed.
He added: “There is a lot of misconception about what a ‘typical’ Oxbridge student is like and we work hard to dispel the myth that they need to look or sound a certain way.
“The best universities are looking for the most academically able students; our school community is full of exceptionally bright students, and our job is to empower them to achieve to their potential, knowing that if they do this nothing will stop them from reaching the highest of heights.”
Brampton Manor opened its sixth form in 2012 with the aim of transforming progression rates to Oxford, Cambridge and other elite Russell Group universities for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The oversubscribed sixth form accepts 300 to 400 students a year.
Some travel for as long as two hours each way to attend the selective sixth form.
Dr Dayo Olukoshi, executive principal of Brampton Manor, said “I am delighted with the incredible number of Oxbridge offers received this year.
“These students combine exceptional academic ability with an exemplary work ethic. I am very proud of them and indeed our entire cohort of Year 13 students, who have remained focused in what has been a difficult year and have been rewarded with offers from the country’s most prestigious universities.”