Why UCL is interested in sponsoring an Academy in Camden

4 July 2007

UCL is an outstanding world-class university. It attracts staff and students from across the globe. It ranks regularly amongst the top few universities in Europe, and amongst the top 25 in the world. From the time of its foundation in 1826 it has been dedicated to providing opportunity for all. It was the first university in England to admit students without any religious test and without regard to race, faith, class or gender.

That ethos underpins everything we do to this day. Our commitment to the full development of human potential is global in its reach, but also local in its focus. We have been closely involved through our staff and students with education in Camden over many years, and we think that the Government’s Academy model offers us a unique way of extending this.

Two years ago, we approached Camden with this proposition: instead of the Government’s scheme for having a wealthy individual or group sponsor a school, why not adapt the Academy model to a special partnership with a university? We think this would allow us to provide new opportunities for Camden children, raising aspirations and performance across the board, and indeed to provide in Camden an exemplar for a strikingly new approach to secondary education in the UK.

Our vision of a UCL Academy in Camden involves a close interaction between UCL and the school, building on the innovative model that we established seven years ago with City and Islington College. Like UCL itself, the school would have a global vision and strong aspirations. What we have in mind is that it would specialise in mathematics and science, but also develop skills and personal qualities through a broad curriculum. It would put the promotion of world languages at the heart of the curriculum.

Its teachers would have access to relevant UCL departments, through a mix of relationships: Fellowships, or through following a UCL-funded masters in Academic Practice, or even through honorary appointments at UCL, with the aim of supporting their own personal development and forging departmental links with the school.

UCL staff, including postdoctoral researchers, would engage with the mission of the Academy, supporting the teachers while imparting their enthusiasm for their subject; our undergraduate and graduate students would engage actively in a variety of activities, including mentoring and ‘buddying’, acting as powerful role models for the pupils.

We would like the 14–19 curriculum to be developed in partnership with local schools and the further education sector in order to secure effective progression for all pupils.  We want the Academy to develop innovative approaches that will improve access to the Key Stage 3 and 14–19 curriculum, including the use of new technology already under development at UCL, and the creation of a virtual learning network.

We propose a research-backed Learning Laboratory and, with external sponsorship, a Science Discovery Centre with an international programme of science-related activities. Pupils will be specifically included in events at UCL, and experience a university learning environment and world-class laboratories.

We believe that the Academy should work within Camden’s policies in relation to support for children with statements of special educational need.  The Academy will seek to form close links with any co-located Special School adjacent to the Academy site and work in partnership to enhance teaching and learning for students with additional educational need.  The Academy will also work within Camden’s admissions policies, while exploring with them the benefits of a fair banding system of admissions. We envisage that over time the Academy would be in a position to offer support to Camden’s education and lifelong learning provision across the borough.

It is Camden’s ambition to be a borough of opportunity. We support that, and we believe that our vision for a world-class Academy for Camden children could help achieve it.