Education Dec 3 2010

A great local community school

Also posted on the Local Schools Network

I am getting a bit fed up of reading about the wonder of the academies so I thought I would post something about my daughter’s school. Here is how the latest Ofsted inspection report, published last week, describes it.

“Parliament Hill School is a large comprehensive community school for girls aged 11-18. It serves a very diverse community with students joining the school from 55 feeder primary schools. The proportion of students known to be eligible for free schools meals is well above the national average. Two thirds of students are of other than White British heritage and nearly half speak English as an additional language. Fifty-nine languages are spoken with the largest group speaking Bengali. Eighteen per cent of students are refugees or seeking asylum and originate from a range of countries including Kosovo, Somalia and Afghanistan. A slightly higher than the national average of students has special educational needs and/or disabilities”.

This school has just been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted for the following reasons: the drive and aspiration of the school’s leadership at every level, the good progress made by students, their pride in the school and the enjoyment they get from their education. Students are very well behaved, teaching is consistently good with many examples of outstanding practice. There is also an “outstanding” curriculum, enhanced by a wide range of out of school activities

I could go on – ambition, high standards, community cohesion, excellence and enjoyment. All embodied in a local authority school, No academy status, no sponsor, no uniform, no dodgy admissions practices or repressive discipline but very high expectations of all the students, many of whom stay on to the sixth form and go to university.

There is as much excellence in the maintained sector as in independent schools and academies. As this report from McKinsey explains, too much school reform is focussed on changing structures rather than focussing on curriculum, teaching and leadership. Parliament Hill School shows what can be achieved if you focus on the latter rather than the former. What is more, my daughter has enjoyed every minute of her time there. And that matters too.

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