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Popularity surge for 'shamed' school

A YEAR AGO the staff and pupils of Ingram School, Croydon, could not have imagined their school would be oversubscribed.

"Named and shamed" by ministers as one of the 18 "worst" schools in the country, staff morale was low and pupils were taught in sub-standard buildings. There were times when the head and governors considered it might even be better for Ingram to close.

But 12 months on, Ingram has been reborn as The Selhurst School, and has had more than 200 applications for 135 places.

It also has new premises, having moved two miles last September into the old Selhurst grammar school.

The revival of the school's fortunes and its new-found popularity has much to do with a rising pupil roll in the area. However, it is also because the "fresh start" has given it new purpose and pride, and the parents of Croydon appear to have noticed.

Although the move to a new site had been in the pipeline for years it could not have come at a better time, enabling the school to shed its old image.

Headteacher John Garlick said a damning Office for Standards in Education inspection at the start of the current academic year - carried out just days after the school had moved - left staff and pupils wondering whether it was worth carrying on.

"Being named by ministers gave us the impetus to press on with the strategies we had already put in place for improving the school. It probably helped to accelerate the process," he said.

"However, we received a most unhelpful inspection in the autumn. We had a honeymoon period of barely 10 days in a new school with a new name, when the inspectors came in."

At the time, Selhurst had a high proportion of supply teachers. Mr Garlick says that many of these teachers were observed several times which resulted in a distorted picture of standards at the school.

They have since complained to OFSTED and the Department for Education and Employment.

Mr Garlick said: "The worst effect was on the boys, and there was a backlash. We had a marked increase in vandalism. While we did not condone this, who could blame them when their school was being described as useless and they had no control over the situation?" The psychology of closing and reopening the school has been successful overall, however. Selhurst began the school year with boys donning a redesigned uniform and "pupils" being redefined as "students".

"After 20 years of being housed in lousy buildings, we are now lucky enough to have a permanent home. It is a sign that Croydon education authority has faith in us, and we will respond to that," he added.

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