Dagenham boys buck the trend

Robert Clack school was singled out for ministerial praise this month for bucking the trend on white working-class boys. The Dagenham secondary had done more than just achieve a huge improvement in GCSE results, according to Jim Knight, the schools minister . "Here, white working class boys aren't being left behind," he said. "They are matching girls' attainment and outperforming them in some subjects."

Paul Grant, the headteacher, said the secret lay in setting down firm but fair ground rules and sticking to them. Discipline was reinforced with a strong and visible staff presence, and senior staff continually checked what was going on in classrooms.

"Boys appreciate a culture where they don't have to follow the lowest common denominator or gang ethos," he said.

They also appreciate routine and a standard lesson plan for the school, which emphasises interactive teaching and ensures that all pupils have understood the work before moving on to the next topic.

The school has worked on countering alienation in the local community by employing 10 former pupils as teachers and about 40 parents in various roles.

"White working-class communities can be quite inward-looking and feel sometimes that outsiders come in and exploit them," said Mr Grant. "So, when they see their own coming in as teachers, a whole range of barriers are removed. The teacher doesn't have to explain who they are because the parents and kids already know."

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