'Championing the rights of children'

Academies are not the only success stories

Garry Tue 04 Jun 2013 08:40

If the government truly wants to improve school standards, it need look no further than the successful community schools in Tower Hamlets, says Estelle Morris.

Why don't we hear more from the government about the London borough of Tower Hamlets? With over half its pupils eligible for free school meals, more than seven in 10 with a first language other than English and a higher-than-average number of children with special educational needs, it has all the social characteristics associated with an underperforming school system.

But it isn't so. Its results at both the end of primary school and at GCSE repeatedly outperform schools in more affluent neighbourhoods and are significantly above the national average. Perhaps most impressive of all, the attainment gap between disadvantaged and other pupils is about a third of the national figure. No wonder all its secondary schools and over 90% of its primaries are judged to be outstanding or good by Ofsted.

Teachers in Tower Hamlets would be the first to recognise that further improvement is needed and some children still underachieve – complacency isn't a word that sits easy in the borough's schools – but it is undoubtedly a beacon of success of which we should be proud and from which we should learn.

Yet mention of its achievement is rare in the speeches of education ministers or on the Department for Education's website. Maybe another statistic about the borough offers the explanation: only two of its schools are academies.

Read more... (The Guardian - 27 May)