Britain’s best universities are dominated by private schools. Could I help level the playing field?

My local comprehensive had not had a student go to Oxford or Cambridge in seven years. So I offered to give its brightest pupils the confidence and support of an expensive education

One day after school in January this year, Isabelle walked to the high street in East Grinstead, West Sussex, where her mother works in a shop selling gifts and clothes. She was with her boyfriend, Alex, who would be meeting her mum for the first time. “It kind of took her by surprise a bit,” Isabelle says, remembering the awkwardness of the moment.

When that was over, Isabelle sprang another surprise: a few hours earlier she had received an offer to read Earth sciences at Oxford University. “Mum gave me a big hug,” says Isabelle, who is now 18. “She was absolutely over the moon for me.”

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