A successful charter school

Imagine what they could do in South Auckland if the teachers union and their political wing, the Labour party, don’t get in the way.

DANIEL RILEY, a young trainee teacher from west London, attended a school so bad that it was shut down while he was there. It was, he recalls with commendable understatement, an “unstructured” place. Fewer than 20% of pupils achieved five good GCSE passes, including mathematics and English (the main benchmark for secondary students, involving exams commonly taken at 16). There were fights. Some, involving knives, ended with arrests. There were drugs—the school drew its pupils from tough housing estates, and gangs prowled at the gates. The teaching was “not inspired,” Mr Riley says, sticking with the understatement. He recalls lessons spent copying texts from books.

As happened to a few dozen failing institutions under the previous Labour government, Mr Riley’s school was turned into an academy—a state school removed from local council control and given new freedoms over staffing and teaching methods. Six years on, Paddington Academy draws its pupils from the same estates. But the school is unrecognisable.

Last summer 69% of pupils met the benchmark for good GCSEs, easily beating the national average. More than half come from homes poor enough to earn free school meals and more than three-quarters do not speak English as a first language, making its intake exceptionally “challenging”, in Whitehall jargon.

Now when Mr Riley meets teenage students they seek advice about university. His dream is to return to Paddington Academy to teach full-time. It is easy to see why. The school is a success, recently earning an “Outstanding” grade from Ofsted school inspectors. It is, more subjectively, an impressive place. It feels calm and academically ambitious. It hums with optimism.

We actually have nothing to lose in trialling Charter Schools…it is apparent as the nose on your face that the current system is failing those in lower decile schools.

Read the rest of the article and learn what makes a great school.


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  • Paddles83

    Wait for the Red Alert 

    • Gazzaw

      Wait for kosh.

  • Kthxbai

    “He recalls lessons spent copying texts from books.”

    Hmm.  I recall those too, here in fair NZ.

  • This doesn’t look like a charter school situation – if you want to see actual examples of proposed methodolgy follow this link http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/reports-on-charter-schools-expose-new-problems/2011/10/31/gIQAcMye3M_blog.html

    • Anonymous

      “Doesn’t look like a charter school”? 
      Staffing flexibility. Flexible teaching methods. Vastly improved outcomes compared to a traditional school.
      If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it is a duck. 

  • Anonymous

    I went to a London primary school for a couple of years a long time back. Teachers were strict but the school had a good reputation – still has according to more recent pupils who have posted on Facebook. It now has ‘Acadamy’ (ie charter) status no doubt through the quality and diligence of principals and staff over many years. The school is now even better placed to deliver quality education to the multiracial community it serves.

  • Anonymous

    The irony of all this is that these “academies” were introduced under a ***Labour*** government in the U.K.

  • PauliePaul

    I’m a school principal and I would love to run a ‘charter school’…being held back by the pathetic unionized culture of our public schools is infuriating to me. I wish the gov. would be a bit bolder and open up the charter school philosophy wider.

    • Kosh103

      Leave NZ then. We have a world class system here. If it is not to your liking go private or go to the UK.

  • Vikingonmars

    I’m sure that you are not alone in that wish. Unfortunatley the Nats. don’t have what it takes to open the door and let you get on with the job..

    • PauliePaul

      That is the sad reality of our electoral system. National always has to have an eye to the next election. In the meantime the hangover from the last Labour Party invasion on education and the very subtle but effective raid by the current Maori Party continues to have a stranglehold on our education system.

    • Alex

      I’m impatient as any one with National, but I do think they need to take charter schools policy slowly. 

      Any problems — even slight ones — will be pounced on by the teachers’ union and Labour and exploited to the maximum, and that would risk charter schools ever becoming established in NZ. 

      Charter schools aren’t the same as national standards.  National standards was a popular policy, so National could push hard implementing it.  Charter schools are a different matter.   Most parents are neutral or don’t really understand what a charter school is.  So there is is a real risk that any bad news will turn parents against them.

      • PauliePaul

        I hear you!

  • Kosh103

    Are any of the CS champs aware of the billions and billions of pounds that the UK Govt throw at these schools? The last 2 UK govts have tripped over themselves to dish out the dosh. If National did that here (given our already amazingly high outcomes) with the current system the schools that this supposed CS nonsense is meant to help will have no need of this idiological rubbish.

    • oneupsman

      (given our already amazingly high outcomes)?
      Must be the same guys cooking the books on “outcomes” as on temperature data.
      They could probably get it to sit up and bark like a dog.
      “Outcomes” in a realworld way are not good. Maybe ststistically, not practically.
      Statistics may “tick” the boxes, but the kids still can’t spell or add 2+2, unless of course you want them to make up what ever answer, as long as they all agree.

      • Kosh103

        I suggest you open your eyes. NZ has an outstanding education system

      • Kibosh

        I know I am casting pearls before a swine, Kosh, but non scholae sed vitae discimus. The academic outcomes of the NZ education system might be fine, but on any indicator of economic or social performance NZ is in decline. Perhaps the “outcomes” don’t bear much relationship to the real world.

      • Greg M

        Kibosh, thanks for bringing back long forgotten memories of private school.
        Latin, religion, cricket, getting de bagged, and beat the boys purple at the drop of a hat. heh!

      • Kosh103

        Kibosh, we are doing more than just fine. There is no doubt we can always do better, but we are doing better than fine.

  • Anonymous

    Free schools receive a lower proportionate level of funding than public schools. It is highly unlikly that have ‘amazingly high’ results in South Auckland as you claim.

    • Kosh103

      Sigh, I suggest reading comp classes.