Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Mossbourne's minor miracle in Hackney
Here's a strange one. Every week in the Education Guardian diary, we are treated to digs at academies - the schools that are lifting standards in our poorest areas - in a diary co-written by the leading light in the Anti-Academies Alliance Francis Beckett. This week, he has a pop at the hugely successful Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, which has transformed the lives of hundreds of youngsters. I've spoken to many of the students, and seen the excellent teaching and the innovative work to combat transition problems at age 11. Around 37% of its pupils are in receipt of free school meals (FSM) - well over twice the national average - yet it achieves some of the best Key Stage 3 results in the country (as the school started from scratch, the pupils have yet to sit GCSEs) and has been declared 'outstanding' by Ofsted inspectors. But this is not good enough for Beckett who jeers that 77% of the pupils at the predecessor school Hackney Downs (which was rightly closed by a 'hit squad' in 1996 after dismal Ofsted reports) were getting free dinners. Indeed: there were just 436 pupils on the register at that stage, because those who had the slightest chance of getting a place elsewhere wouldn't touch the school (this didn't stop it becoming a Trotskyist cause celebre). Do the maths: in 1994, 335 pupils were on FSM and 11% got five good GCSEs. Today, the school is thriving, filling each form of entry with just over 200 pupils; when full, it will have 1000 pupils including at least as many FSM pupils as when it closed, but a much wider social mix too, which most experts think is crucial in lifting standards for all. Oh, and there is the minor fact that the disadvantaged pupils are getting a first-class education too.