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Michael Gove backs schools scheme launched by Topshop boss Sir Philip Green and Highgate School

18:30 27 February 2014

Highgate School headteacher Adam Pettitt and Michael Gove at the launch of a schools scheme last Wednesday. Picture: Jonathan Richards

Highgate School headteacher Adam Pettitt and Michael Gove at the launch of a schools scheme last Wednesday. Picture: Jonathan Richards

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Education secretary Michael Gove has praised a scheme launched by Topshop boss Sir Philip Green and Highgate School to help teenagers from Camden, Haringey and Barnet have careers in retail.

The project will offer pupils from independent Highgate School and more than 20 partner state schools top-level work experience with the Arcadia Group, which owns Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Burton and Wallis.

School-leavers will also be able to apply for a job at Arcadia without needing to get a degree first, currently a requirement for roles above shop-floor work.

The Secretary of State for Education pledged his support for the project to 800 people at a glittering launch night at Highgate School, in North Road, Highgate, yesterday.

“[Highgate School] is a superb school with a strong academic record thanks to [headteacher] Adam Pettitt’s leadership,” Mr Gove told the Ham&High after the event.

“Students at all the [partner] schools have already found themselves benefiting from the great teaching at Highgate and it has been a fantastic example of the importance of independent schools helping state schools. And Highgate School benefits from these opportunities as well.”

The scheme came about after a Highgate School parent, an executive at Arcadia Group, met with headteacher Adam Pettitt to discuss a link-up between the two institutions.

Sir Philip liked the idea, called for Mr Pettitt to be brought into Arcadia’s head office and, 48 hours later, talks began.

Pupils who sign up to the project can take part in four after-school masterclasses led by Arcadia directors in retail and property, finance, digital and social media and buying, merchandising and sourcing in March.

They can also attend CV-writing and interview workshops, which will be held during school hours by recruitment specialists.

Students interested in work experience at Arcadia will go through a rigorous recruitment process, submitting a CV, covering letter and will then have a video interview.

Fifty lucky teenagers will be offered two weeks work experience within a department of their choice, where they will have the chance to meet Sir Philip, Arcadia’s CEO, and mingle with company bosses.

A member of Highgate School staff will be on site at all times to supervise the students.

The scheme is on offer to pupils within the Highgate School-funded Chrysalis Partnership, a group of 21 schools including Parliament Hill, William Ellis, Henrietta Barnett, La Sainte Union, Haverstock and Highgate Wood Schools, as well as Hornsey School for Girls.

Of offering students the chance to apply for jobs without a degree, Highgate School headteacher Adam Pettitt told the Ham&High: “It shouldn’t stop anyone from doing a degree but it’s about opening up to the fact that people have more opportunities than they realise.”

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