“Now I’ve visited other urban academies where discipline has driven up results. It’s not what’s radical about Durand. Once Martin got the structure right in the classroom, he started work on the physical structure. He sold off the playgrounds.
‘We still have playgrounds. But yeah, I built flats on some of them. And a swimming pool. And a
flood lit pitch.’
This is how he built his dream. To be a developer of dreams he became a developer of property. He started, on school land,a thriving accomodation business and a swanky gym that is shared between students and the fee-paying public. This is what has paid for two beautiful swimming pools (all children from age of four upwards get an hour’s instruction a week); the loveliest most well-appointed classrooms; and extra teachers to halve class sizes in lower streams.”
– Helen Rumbelow (Political Journalist for the ‘Times’)
A brand new middle school building, smaller class sizes, increased teacher support, and property developments that have helped to fund the next stage of the Durand Academy’s development. Without a doubt Sir Greg Martin deserves all the praise heaped upon him by both the parents, Mr Clegg and Michael Gove. True, there has been an NQT drop out rate of 40% (in the past), conflicts with Lambeth Council (the libel action was suspended in 2010 after the Auditor offered an unreserved apology for his e-mails),and even conflict with disgruntled NQTs (and their parents), but all of that according to Ofsted is in the past. And Mr Martin is now free to proceed unimpeded with the next stage in his plans, a state funded boarding school. Oh there may be shivers running down the spines of those educationalists who believe that the whole point of Public Sector Schools, is that they impart a quality education, whilst in no way resembling elitist (divisive?) independent schools. But that is because their ideas are firmly fixed in a past where doors could be left unlocked when you went shopping, and policemen roamed London streets armed only with truncheons.
What could be more ‘innovative’ than a state funded boarding school run by a cutting edge academy for urban kids from one of London’s most deprived boroughs? Bussed in each Sunday evening, they’d be immersed in a tranquil, thoroughly academic atmosphere, in which a cultured, culture of learning would be assiduously encouraged. And all of those external influences for which Lambeth is apparently famous (drugs, guns, knife crime) excluded, freed from the socio-economic shackles of Lambeth, these children would realise their potential more fully than might be the case were they to be educated at one of the twelve secondary schools Lambeth Council is able to provide. Say, for example, Dunraven High School (rated outstanding by OFSTED, GCSE pass rate in 2012 – 73%) or
La Retraite RC Girl’s School ( rated outstanding by OFSTED, GCSE pass rate in 2012 – 74%) or perhaps even the London Nautical School, which shares the same GCSE pass rate as Park Campus, Lambeth’s Secondary Pupil Referral Unit (55%, the national average is actually 58.2%).
The percentage pass rates of Lambeth Schools are in the main, above the national average and would compare very favourably with the performance of schools in say, West Sussex, the neighbourhood in which Mr Martin intends to build his new school, with the help of £17m worth of taxpayer’s money as approved by the Department for Education.
Now, although the Durand Academy project has been lauded by some ‘as a wonderfully ambitious attempt to give children from one of the most deprived parts of London an Eton-style education’ others have been less enthused.
In June, the National Audit Office criticised the Department for Education for committing £17m of the taxpayer’s money to the project without sufficiently assessing the risks. Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking & Havering and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, also wrote a letter expressing her concerns to the parish council. They in turn made it clear that though the project was well-intentioned, they found it hard to understand why the Department for Education, should elect to build a brand new secondary school for Lambeth school children in West Sussex, when there were 9 secondary schools in Lambeth
(with a pass rate of between 60-70%), capable of providing a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ education for the self same students.
On this occasion both the National Audit Office and Margaret Hodge were fortunate. Mr Martin elected to reprimand them both by way of a written letter expressing his disappointment at their lack of enthusiasm and setting out his proposals,reminding them both that the school had already self-funded itself to the tune of £8m. What Mr Martin failed to explain in his letter was why he felt the need to set up a secondary boarding school when there appears to be so little wrong with the quality of secondary education in Lambeth(according to OFSTED).
Perhaps the answer lies with Mr Gove, who has frequently stated that his intention is to produce an education system that will not only equip students to excel at university, but will also provide the next generation of skilled workers.
With that in mind one wonders what he and his department are doing to ensure those 41.7% of students who don’t excel academically, are able to receive the kind of vocational training that will equip them to take their place as skilled workers in the modern world.