Newham's new broom pays off

Eleven years ago, just 8 per cent of pupils in one of London's poorest boroughs gained five or more good GCSEs - today, a third are celebrating top grades.

That statistic is still below the national average but represents a 25 per cent improvement and a radical rethink on the way education is handled in the borough. It also beats the authority's own target.

Newham, one of the most deprived areas in the country, has amalgamated all of its infant and junior schools, runs Saturday and summer schools, and has a policy of recruiting headteachers from outside the borough.

"I'm sure one of the reasons we have done well on exam performance is because we have got rid of all the dozy men!" said Graham Lane, Newham's education chair.

The borough began setting targets in 1986 (the Government introduced them nationally only in recent months). Newham has also published information about exam performance since the Eighties. Its exam results have improved steadily now for the past 11 years.

Two Newham schools gaining improvements of 8-9 per cent or more were Brampton Manor, St Angela's and St Bonaventure's.

Next year's target of 35 per cent getting five or more top grades has already been upped to 40 per cent.

"I am absolutely delighted," said Mr Lane, "because when I said I wanted at least 20 per cent of pupils to get five or more good GCSEs by 1990 they laughed at me."

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