Further to the earlier post about the Paddington Academy schoolgirl who was heckled at the Labour Party Conference I thought it would be useful to tell readers more about this tremendous success story which Labour Conferece delegates greeted with such a lack of enthusiasm.
Lord Adonis gives an account in his new book Education, Education, Education.
Nowhere is the transformation greater than at Paddington Academy, a short distance from Paddington Station in inner north-west London. By intake this is the most deprived academy of the sixteen, drawing predominantly from two huge multi-racial council estates. Fully 53 per of the academy’s pupils are eligible for free school meals, making it the sixteenth most deprived secondary school by intake nationally.
Paddington’s predecessor comprehensive, North Westminster Community School, had as its headmaster for its first 20 years Michael Marland, "a bow-tied guru of the comprehensive movement."
He was a disastrous head.
When Lord Adonis visited in 2004:
North Westminster was a deplorable sink school in every sense: buildings dilapidated, bullying and truancy rife, results pitiful, teachers disaffected and supply teachers everywhere. The school’s GCSE performance was less than half the national average. The school was pretty well neglected by its local education authority, Westminster.
Michael Marland’s obituary says that "when walking (his preferred mode of transport) between the school’s three sites, he would talk endlessly into his trusty Dictaphone, producing masses of material for his secretaries to type." Lord Adonis felt he might have done better without the Dictaphone. The school was so bad that eve the left wing Labour MP Karen Buck proved an ally in pushing for action to be taken.
The improvement following its take over by the United Learning Trust was fantastic:
Despite the highly deprived intake, in 2011, the fifth year of the academy, nearly 70 per cent of the sixteen-year-olds got five or more good GCSEs including English and maths, against 18 per cent in the last year of North Westminster. In 2011, the academy was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. It also got its first student into Cambridge: the son of Iraqi refugees who only arrived in England in 2007, speaking very little English, and who gained three A*s and an A at A-level and is now reading medicine.
In their case study, O’Hear and Blaire attribute much of the success to ‘relentless attention to detail, such as daily checking of staff duties (essential in a crowded building) and daily learning walks that sample every lesson with brief feedback’. And despite the success, ‘the headteacher judges the academy to be only half way towards implementing its vision which will only be achieved when all children gain at least grade C in English and maths GCSE.’ Teach First has supplied more than twenty teachers, who have helped bring about this profound change.
Great news. But did Lord Adonis really imagine any of this would get a cheer from a Labour conference?
They would only have cheered if it been a failure.