Have a look at the latest league table for secondary schools in Enfield. You will note that Aylward Academy saw 48% of pupils achieved five or more good GCSEs including English and maths. While for the Nightingale Academy the results were 42%. Then compare the previous year for these two schools then called respectively Gladys Aylward School where the figure was 30% and Turin Grove where the figure was 27%.
The schools still have a long way to go but that is the most astonishing progress in just one year. What happened to cause this dramatic improvement? The answer is Boris Johnson. These two schools became Mayoral academies. Last September a third opened, Bexleyheath Academy. There are plans for ten Mayoral academies across London at a total cost of £20 million.
The Labour Party has attacked this initiative. The Labour London Assembly member Len Duvall says they are "vanity projects." Ofsted talks about a "transformation in behaviour" at Aylward. While in Nightingale it has "improved significantly." Poor teaching in both schools is being dealt with rather than ignored.
The cost of this academy sponsorship comes out of the London Development Agency budget. Let us remember how that money used to spent under Ken Livingstone during the era of cronyism.
The Forensic Audit Panel found that the board was "ineffective".
The LDA commenced operations in 2000 and since then has spent in excess of £3 billion of public funds. It currently has 649 established posts and last year its budget, including Olympic related expenditure, was approximately £740 million. Yet worklessness remains a major problem in London with 30% of working age residents not in employment, more than elsewhere in the UK. The Panel identified failings in the LDA’s leadership, governance and basic controls which have led to our overall conclusion that the former LDA board was ineffective.
It has been widely acknowledged that the role of Mayoral advisers in the awarding of grants and commissioning of projects requires far greater transparency. We have been told that undue pressures were brought to bear on LDA project managers to award certain grants and/or commission certain projects. For example, we understand that Anthony Mayer and Manny Lewis both told the Assembly that they believed Lee Jasper had acted in two different capacities when he intervened in relation to the LDA’s grants to Brixton Base, both as a patron of that organisation and as a Mayoral adviser.
What about all the other schools in London? There will be the siren voices that if Boris can't do everything he should do nothing. But the competition and the example of success is magnetic.
Jesus Christ said:
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
But you don't have to rely on faith. All the evidence is that good schools drive up the standards of neighbouring schools as well. The Mayoral academies have got off to a fantastic start. Let's have more of them.