A flare for rowing could earn secondary school students admission to a prestigious state school in Hackney.
Mossbourne Community Academy, which has been ranked “exceptional” by Ofsted, is offering up to 10 additional year nine places based on students’ potential to become elite rowers.
Physical characteristics taken into consideration include height, arm span, fitness and strength.
The decision has drawn criticism from local parents, who are accusing Mossbourne of cherry-picking.
A former schools adjudicator has also criticised the school for its rowing admissions criteria, which includes an “interview” detailing potential student’s physical aptitude and existing sports achievements.
Selection by interview of any type is illegal in state schools, although 10 per cent of students can be selected by academic, music or sporting aptitude.
Pete Hughes, principal of Mossbourne, told the Guardian: “I believe I’m doing the right thing by the children. We’re obviously looking at what the elite private schools are doing and doing our best to replicate them. We want our students to have the same opportunities.”
“We have pupils who maybe would not have thought they could go on into higher education, who could get a free education through rowing scholarship in the United States.”
“Imagine somebody coming from a Hackney council estate and then rowing for the University of Michigan crew.”
Mossbourne’s foray into private school territory is likely to attract children with sporting ambition from neighbouring state schools, which could be disruptive.
Social commentator Deborah Orr wrote in the Guardian’s Comment is Free: “The worry, as ever, is that by striving so hard to attract pupils who already have the advantage of pointy parental elbows, Mossbourne will be pushing children who aren’t so fortunate into other schools. The move is good for Mossbourne and bad for everywhere else.”