A dozen high achieving pupils from Cumberland School in Plaistow have been offered all expenses paid places to fee paying sixth forms, including to Francis Holland in Chelsea where alumni include Senna Miller, Jemima Khan and Cara Delevingne.
The majority of the students at Cumberland come from immigrant and working class backgrounds, with some families fleeing from hardship and war in countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia.
Minnat Mohammed, 15 from Plaistow, is attending University College School and taking A Levels in maths English, physics and chemistry.
Both of her parents left Sudan to escape civil war in the 2000s. She said they are “extremely proud” of her.
“It has been an incredible journey for my parents leaving Sudan and coming to the UK,” she said. “They cannot believe I am going to be attending a really, really top private school.
“They are so incredible proud of me. It is a bit overwhelming.
“People from my background do not normally get chances like this. I am very aware that this has completely changed my life. I am going to grab it with both hands.”
Ella Wellingbrook, 15, from Canning Town, has been offered a place at the private Francis Holland School in Chelsea.
Ella, whose father is a lorry driver and mother is a dinner lady, will study A Levels in geography, physics, and English literature.
“I am so pleased so many of us got in,” she said. “I was one of the first to find out I had been accepted so have been cheering all my friends on these last few months.
“It such a huge deal for this school and community because so many of us are going off to these amazing schools. It is life changing.”
Each student had to go through a rigorous selection process, which included entrance exams and interviews.
They were supported throughout the process by Cumberland School’s Prestigious Colleges programme.
Each student is assigned a leadership team member to be their mentor who helps with applications, entrance exams and interviews.
The school has also hired an etiquette coach to teach students on how to dress, communicate and conduct themselves.
Last year, seven students from the school won places at top private schools, including Eton College.
Headteacher Omar Deria said: “We had seven last year, now we have 12. Next year we are aiming for 20.
“That would mean one in ten students in at our school will be leaving East London for some of the top fee-paying schools in the country on all expenses paid scholarship.”