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How we did it

Coopers' Company and Coborn school does well in the league tables. But there's more to life than exams, says its headteacher, Davina Lloyd

This school is run on a success culture. From the time our children come in at Year 7, we say: "This is a successful school - you will be successful."

We get them involved in all sorts of activities. We call it the marmalade sandwich principle - the more you put in the more you get out.

When I became head, eight years ago, the children were doing 11 GCSEs, which I thought was too many. I changed the timetable in 1997 and knocked it down to 10.

I still get pressured by parents who think we should do more exams. They like the idea of 12 GCSEs for some reason. Cambridge and Oxford only require eight, why bother with 12?

I've also cancelled the Year 12 January exams because it's nonsense to come out from GCSE and within one term go straight into a public exam. My post-GCSE pupils don't leave at the end of one year.

We're based in Upminster, Essex, and it is fairly affluent. We take a significant number of children from east London - the school moved out of the East End in 1971. We don't get the top achieving children because there are eight grammar schools surrounding us. Our results are significantly above average - in 2001, we topped the league tables at GCSE, and our A-level results placed us second. We have some amazing successes with children who, in other schools, probably wouldn't have been as successful.

We've always been at the cutting edge of things. In any one year we can be in 10 national finals of various sports, when most schools would concentrate on one or two. This helped us win sports college status last September.

Roughly half the children play musical instruments. There are around 24 bands and ensembles running every week, so in every part of the school there's always music coming from somewhere.

The children do a huge amount of charity work. Our first term is devoted to charity. In various parts of the world, we have homes or rooms in homes named after the school because we've raised funds to build them. We have a charitable trip abroad for the older children every two years.

Most of our staff have been here for 20 or more years, some having taught the pupils' parents. They work long hours and spend holidays and evenings working with the children. We've theatre trips, weekend activities and holiday trips, too.

They know we're here for them - and I think knowing that keeps them going.

Davina Lloyd is headteacher at Coopers' Company and Coborn school in Upminster, Essex. She was talking to Martin Whittaker. Do you have a success story to share? Email susan.young@newsint.co.uk

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