Improving School Quality and Exam Results06-02-2015
The Guardian (29/01/2015) reported how the gap between rich and poor students has begun to reverse trends, beginning to widen. While results generally indicate that schools in disadvantaged areas suffer and exam results are lower, there are still some shining examples of unorthodox approaches taken by these schools resulting in success. How are these schools overcoming challenges to achieve such unprecedented success?
Grinling Gibbons’ Analytical Approach
Grinling Gibbons, a state school located in Deptford in Lewisham, achieved the best Key Stage 2 Standard Assessment Test (SAT) results from a state primary in England for 22 years, leaving it top of the state league table. This achievement is all the more remarkable as more than half its student population qualify for free school meals.
Deptford community has been described as a ‘transient community’ with a population largely comprising immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa, China and Vietnam. Most of Grinling Gibbons’ pupils speak English as a second language. Since becoming head of Grinling in 1995 Cynthia Eubank has actively worked to bring greater value to her students. Daily Eubank and her team review various metrics comparing performances from previous years and with other schools in their area. One approach the team has adopted is to identify weaker performing students. When students are falling behind, they are called in for one-to-one tutorials. Tutorials improve performance as students take responsibility for their learning and are stimulated becoming more proactive with their learning and leading to achieving a great deal of personal development. One-to-one tutorials also provide the benefit of quieter learning areas, with the effects of noise on children’s cognition, reading skills, and learning ability having been extensively researched.
King Solomon Challenging Students to Achieve
Another excellent success to highlight is King Solomon Academy. The school is situated in one of the poorest wards in London with the highest deprivation affecting children in London. In the face of adversity the Academy has achieved exceptionally high GCSE results as related by Max Haimendorf, the Academy’s Secondary headteacher; ‘93% of pupils achieved five GCSE grades A*-C including English and Maths, and 75% achieved the English Baccalaureate.’ These results are dramatically higher than national averages. King Solomon Academy is a member of the ARK network, who focus on 6 areas; high expectations, exemplary behaviour, excellent teaching, depth before breadth, more time for learning, and knowing every child. King Solomon has taken an inspiring, ‘lead through example’ approach to its décor, classes are named after the university that the class teacher attended. These themes tie in with the Academy’s ethos of balancing hard work and fun as Mr. Haimendorf relates, ‘As well as the raising of aspirations, we want our children to be excited about learning. School has to be fun for pupils to enjoy it’.
Schools are under increasing pressure to update and improve facilities. Bisham, the once-popular primary school, has lost nearly 15% of its pupils due to parents having lost confidence in the school’s ability to improve and update. Windsor and Maidenhead council have responded ‘departing families were impatient that the school was not improving fast enough.’