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Life is sweet with three applicants per place

Oaklands school is a perfect example of why Tower Hamlets has become the most popular borough in London.

On any day, it is not unusual to find around a hundred pupils still on site two hours after the end of the school day taking part in study support programmes. Last year, 60 per cent of pupils gained five or more GCSEs at grades C or above, compared with 37 per cent in 1999. Attendance figures are equally impressive, at 93.6 per cent.

Oaklands is heavily over-subscribed with three applicants for every place.

Its roll broadly reflects the ethnic mix of the east London borough - around 55 per cent Bangladeshi, 30 per cent white, 10 per cent African-Caribbean and the rest a mix of Somali, Turkish, Moroccan, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Headteacher Jo Dibb said: "There's a belief that the future of places like Tower Hamlets rests on schools like ours where pupils of different backgrounds work and play together."

Stephen Grix, Tower Hamlets' director of education, said that surplus places in the borough meant that no child wanting a local school is refused a place.

He also attributed the popularity of its schools to the high Bangladeshi population, 59 per cent of the school-age community, whose parents tended to want their children educated close to home.

Geography also stopped white pupils leaving, Mr Grix said: "The white population tends to be concentrated around the Isle of Dogs, which is an island and means it is hard logistically for children to attend any school other than the local one.

"Last year our proportion of five or more A*- Cs was 43 per cent and our key stage 2 results are two points away from the national average, which is excellent given this is the most impoverished area of England.

"Parents know that our schools are doing what they can to provide a decent education, often in difficult circumstances."

Alistair MacDonald, head of Morpeth school, said class played a major role, with middle-class parents being more mobile. "We have one of the smallest number of middle-class parents of any borough in London," he said. "We're dealing with a population which is in many ways less articulate in searching for schools and more likely to use local ones."

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