Hackney’s Mossbourne Academy has been ranked one of the best schools in the UK after last month’s exam results. The academy, which opened seven years ago on the site of a school described as one of the worst in Britain, had record high results in August, with 91 per cent of its GCSE students achieving five or more A*-C grades. A Level results were equally impressive, with ten pupils receiving offers to study at Cambridge University.
Described as one of the “east London education miracles,” last year the school was visited by the US Education Secretary Arne Duncan. A spokesperson for the school said: “Our results show that children from Hackney can excel at the highest level and can aspire to the best universities in the world and get there. We have created an environment where good teaching and learning can flourish and any student that walks through the doors is expected to achieve and to fulfil their potential, wherever they are from.”
Speaking to the BBC this week, executive principal of Mossbourne, Sir Michael Wilshaw – who is expected to be named the new chief inspector of Ofsted soon – said: “A lot of our students come from difficult and poor backgrounds but they do extremely well because we have really high expectations of them. High expectations of behaviour, high expectations of what they can do to achieve well.”
The academy has a diverse mix of students from over 30 ethnicities. The school spokesperson explained that the discipline standards set in place have contributed to the success of the school: “At Mossbourne, students are expected to recite the school mantra to reflect on what they are learning and their attitude at the beginning of each lesson. Uniform is important – there is no point in having a uniform unless it’s worn correctly. Children crave discipline and order, and the whole point about building rituals and routines is to build structure in the children’s lives, which in turn gives the staff the freedom to teach in the way they think best. Mossbourne pupils address the teachers as ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’ and stand up when an adult walks into a classroom.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Mossbourne Academy is a brilliant school. It does well because of the hard work and dedication of staff, parents and pupils. They always start from the assumption that every pupil, regardless of their background, can and should do well at school.
“They use their Academy freedoms well and have strong and inspirational leadership. The Academies model is helping low performing schools to improve and high performing schools to do even better. We now have over 1,300 Academies with many more schools converting all the time.”
Councillor Rita Krishna, cabinet member for children’s services in the borough, added: “Education in Hackney is going from strength to strength, which is demonstrated by this significant external recognition justly achieved by Mossbourne Community Academy. It is gratifying to have outstanding schools securing a good future for children in the borough.”
Mossbourne is funded directly by the central government and answers to the education secretary. The NUT, which is against the introduction of free schools (like the one proposed in Tower Hamlets), has in the past opposed the premise on which academies were set up – and still does, because it says it hinders the ability for local school authorities to get equal funding.
A spokesman for Hackney NUT said: “The largest determinant of academic success is socio-economic class – or, at the very least, there is a very high correlation. The academy programme started by New Labour was an attempt to keep middle class parents in the state system, as is the so-called free schools programme, with its faux grammar school blazers and insistence on Latin and other ‘core’ subjects. Mossbourne was the first academy in Hackney with a complicated ‘doughnut’ catchment area that tapped into most of the borough and the aspirations of the increasingly middle class population.
“Now other academies and community schools are attracting this population so, in turn, their results have improved. The crucial question therefore is: are we comparing like with like? English education has always been good at educating the academic minority and failing miserably to educate the majority of children, many of whom have difficulties with literacy and numeracy. That’s the real task.”