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Football theme fights pupil relegation battle;Inner Cities

THE REPORT paints an all-too familiar picture for the principal of Westgate Community College, the only secondary school in the tough west end of Newcastle.

Phil Turner's college was included in the London School of Economics research and has experienced the vicious circle of poor results leading to rejection by the parents of many of the most promising potential pupils.

He said: "We were formed when two comprehensives in the area were combined. The school failed its first inspection and I was brought in afterwards.

"We were the biggest school to fail at the time. They couldn't close us down because we were too big. So we had to put it right.

"The school has a history of failure. Confidence is being restored but many aspirational parents have started moving their children to schools which feed into what are seen as more successful comprehensives in the city.

"They look and see we are very low down the league tables and say 'that's not what I want for my children'. Sixty-five per cent of our children are on free school meals.

"We have about 7 or 8 per cent of our pupils getting five or more A to C grades at GCSE so we are hardly breaking turf as far as excellence is concerned."

This is despite a number of initiatives including a homework club and a project which gives pupils the chance to study in the players' bar at St James's Park-the home of Newcastle United.

Mr Turner said "It means a lot to the children and we give them work with a footballing theme, such as working out goal averages and that sort of thing."

Sandra Marsden, headteacher of Delaval primary in the west end, said: "In future it is important that housing policy and schooling are looked at together.

"This is a problem of strategic planning. If parents move away from the area it is difficult for them to carry on sending their children to our school, although a lot of them want to."

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