Academies are no panacea

WHEN Peter Crook becomes principal of one of London's first city academies next year, he will be fully aware of the challenges that caused its predecessor to struggle.

Exceptionally high levels of deprivation, large numbers of pupils speaking English as a second language and staff shortages were among the typically urban problems that led Warwick Park school in Peckham to be branded a failing school in 1999.

Mr Crook, a head for 12 years, is the first to admit that simply investing millions of pounds of private sponsorship in a new building and renaming it The Academy are not going to magic the problems away.

But he believes that the opportunity to introduce a new curriculum that focuses on business and the performing arts, while promoting stronger links with the local community, will better serve pupil needs.

He said: "A city academy is certainly not a holy grail that will solve all ills, but the school has recently come out of special measures and is already moving in the right direction.

"Significant investment in a new school building will enable us to provide a far more appropriate learning and teaching environment and to embrace new technology. Introducing a curriculum that has arts and business at its heart will also grab the immediate interest of pupils and make lessons seem more relevant to them.

"My aim is to encourage them to broaden their horizons and consider all the further education opportunities.

"Becoming a city academy will, above all, offer the chance of a fresh start and of regaining the confidence of parents and the local community."

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