Schools in Tower Hamlets are among the best in the urban world, according to a report released today.
The report by educational academics, Professor David Woods, Dr Chris Husbands and Dr Chris Brown, said the improvement of schools across the borough was “exceptional” and “that it was not unreasonable to argue they have some of the best urban schools in the world.”
The findings referred to the fact the all 14 of Tower Hamlets secondary schools had received ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ ratings from Ofsted, and that there was a 20 per cent rise in students receiving A*-C grades at GCSE level across the borough.
At an event to launch the report at Bow Boys School, Woods said: “The findings are remarkable, what we can’t forget is that this is the most deprived area in the country. Tower Hamlets proves deprivation is not destiny.”
In 1997, the borough came last out of 149 English education authorities in terms of performance. It also had some of the lowest literacy results nationally, and teaching standards were seen as unsatisfactory.
Woods identified seven key reasons behind the improvement in the borough. These included the ability to attract high quality teachers, replacing inadequate leadership, encouraging support systems with neighbouring schools, and a resilience approach by schools to external government policies and pressure.
He also cited high levels of funding and good quality external support structures as other reasons for school’s successes.
Woods said: “When I go around the country and school’s ask me what more they can do I say to them ‘come with me to Tower Hamlets’.”
Also in attendance at the event was Mayor of Tower Hamlets Luftur Rahman.
Rahman said: “It is fantastic to celebrate achievement, achievement of our parents, achievement of our staff, and a achievement of our students. To be seen as having some of the best schools in the world by three prominent professors is something that must be celebrated”
“In the community a learning culture has developed over the past ten years where parents want their children to excel and that deprivation and poverty is no excuse to achievement. The only way you can come out of poverty and the community going forward is through education.”
He added: “We must not get complacent, we must continue the good work, we must continue the leadership and the partnerships that exist.”
The latest figures from Ofsted showed that not a single teacher was regarded as inadequate at Secondary School level, and the borough, which has 149 different languages spoken in their schools, is performing well above the national average in writing.
In 1997 only 4 per cent of students attending Bow Boys School achieved 5 A-C grades, but in 2013 the school has a 90 per cent A-C achievement rate.
Deputy Head John O’Shea believes this is largely down to engaging with the community and raising aspirations of the Tower Hamlets’ Children.
He said: “The key is about getting students to understand what is possible and that will encourage them to work hard to achieve these aims”
O’Shea added: “In the fifteen years since the last report the biggest difference is 100 per cent the improvement in teaching and as a result learning in the classroom.”
St Paul’s Wray secondary school in Mile End has also shown significant improvement in the past few years, rising from the brink of special measures in 2009, to an ‘outstanding’ rated school in their last Ofsted report.
Head teacher Grahame Price said that partnerships with other schools, universities and the local authority were important.
Price said: “Our trajectory for improvement was a lot faster than usual and I think what was very supportive in that process was that when I wanted to bring in ideas, like for example a Sixth Form the local authority and other schools were very supportive in that process.”
He added: “These have all contributed to just under 50% of our students gaining places at Russell Group Universities.”
Many local parents were not surprised at the findings.
Laila Ali who has three children, one at university, one at St Paul Wrays Secondary and one in St Saviour’s Primary, said: “There has been a big improvement teaching is much better than before.”
She added: “They gave my oldest a lot of support in getting them to University.”
Kim Swan who has a 10-year-old daughter at Old Palace Primary in Bow said: “I have no complaints with the school that my girl is at. They provide a great Breakfast club and the school interact closely with parents – they even send us text messages!”
But one mother, Yve Miller, was not as positive. Miller said: “I disagree with these findings.”
She continued: “My boy is in the second year of Secondary School. When he arrived he was well above average in reading and writing, now since he has gone to secondary school he is no longer at those high levels.”
The report will be particularly pleasing for Tower Hamlets educational authorities after the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said that British education was slipping behind other nations last week.
The report also comes as Ofsted chief Michael Wilshaw announces that pupils are being held back by ‘”low level disruption in classrooms.”