Newcastle's inner-city success story

An inner-city college serving some of the country's most disadvantaged areas is celebrating getting record numbers of students into the top universities this year.

Around 250 teenagers – one in four – from Newcastle Sixth Form College are bound for universities in the elite Russell Group, which represents 24 of the most research-intensive institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge.

One reason for the success, said Steve Gibson, the college principal, was that it had ploughed £1m from its own budget into funding education maintenance allowances – axed by the Government – for its pupils.

The allowances of up to £30 a week are credited with helping to persuade many young people to stay on in full-time education after the age of 16 who otherwise would have been unable to afford it.

"I'm delighted with the results the students have achieved – given some of them have come from very difficult backgrounds," Mr Gibson said.

Callum Easton, 19, won a place at Cambridge to read history after getting two A*s and an A grade in his A-levels. "It will be a completely new academic experience," he said. "You will be taught by lecturers who are world-class in their field. Some of it has got to rub off on me."

For Kelly-Leigh Cooper, 18, her two As and a B did not quite meet her conditional offer to study history and English literature at Edinburgh University. But after an agonising two hours calling the university, her place was confirmed. She will be the first in her family to go to university.