Hackney pupils picked for Cambridge thanks to EMA

Grant helped youths achieve their dream.

Most of the top pupils offered Cambridge University places from a Hackney academy hailed as “the best comprehensive in the country” receive scrapped government grants to help them stay in school.

Ten sixth formers from Mossbourne Community Academy in Downs Park Road have earned the chance to study at Cambridge – and the majority used the education maintenance allowance (EMA) to do so.

MPs voted to scrap the a weekly payments – available to 16 to 18 year olds whose household income is under �30,800 to encourage them to stay in education – last Wednesday, despite widespread protest from students.

Hackney youngsters presented a deputation against the move to last night’s full council meeting.

Mossbourne’s Cambridge hopefuls are among the first to take the A-levels at the academy, which replaced failing Hackney Downs School.

Sharukh Malik, 17, has an offer to study economics and Liam Downes, 18, is aiming to study German and Latin.

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Michael Ha and Shedeh Javadzadeh, both 17, are hoping to study medicine.

Executive principal Sir Michael Wilshaw, who joined a government-appointed panel to review the national curriculum this week, said: “This is a remarkable achievement. Most of these students receive EMA and come from modest backgrounds. This is great news for the academy and for Hackney.”

The students must now get the grades to go to their chosen universities.

Shane Chowen, vice-president for further education at the National Union for Students (NUS) said the EMA cut showed “a reckless disregard for the poorest and youngest in society”.

“These amazing young people are a perfect illustration of the impact of EMA. Not only does it help thousands of learners who would otherwise be forced to drop out of education to continue their studies but it vastly improves the attainment of those who receive it.”

More than 2,100 of the 3,600 over 16s in education in Hackney have received the EMA, including 58 per cent of students at BSix College in Kenninghall Road and 57 per cent at Mossbourne - described as “the best comprehensive in the country” by former Ofsted inspector John Bald. In total, 31 Mossbourne students won offers from Britain’s top Russell Group universities, such as Imperial College and University of Bristol.