Capital gains for London

3rd March 2006 at 00:00
Schools in the metropolis get a huge vote of confidence from their teachers and pupils Michael Shaw reports

Punch-ups were a common sight in the playground at Rokeby school when Eni Jacob went to meet his older cousin five years ago.

Eni, who is now 15 and a Rokeby pupil, described his alarm at seeing pupils using wrestling moves to smash students into the bins at the boys'

comprehensive in east London.

"It was war," he said. "I was scared about going there when I finished primary school."

He recalls hearing stories of dull lessons where pupils would fill in photocopied work-sheets.

But Rokeby school in Stratford has transformed itself over the past three years both in terms of discipline and teaching methods and was taken out of special measures last year.

It is far from the only London school to see such improvements.

A study by the National Foundation for Educational Research has found that pupils in the capital are more likely to say they have good teachers than children in other cities.

Eight out of 10 pupils and nine out of 10 teachers said they enjoyed studying and working in London's schools.

Pupils believe disruptive behaviour in lessons is decreasing. However, racism remains an issue, with a quarter saying it is a problem in their schools. Bullying also appears significantly worse.

Researchers interviewed more than 66,000 pupils and teachers in London and in other metropolitan areas in Britain and most of the results should give teachers in London cause for optimism. While 52 per cent of Year 7 pupils in other cities said their teachers were either all good or mostly good, this view was held by 54 per cent of those in the capital.

The survey showed that London pupils were generally more positive about their schools in 2005 than they were in 2004 when the NFER carried out a similar study.

More students said their lessons were interesting, rules were fair, teachers treated them with respect and that they could go to staff about their problems.

However, the findings for behaviour were mixed. Fewer students said that other pupils disrupted their lessons every day or that those who worked hard were teased.

But there was a significant increase in the numbers reporting bullying, up from 28 to 37 per cent for pupils in Year 7 and from 23 to 30 per cent for those in Year 10.

Eni, who is predicted A*s and As at GCSE and has won a basketball scholarship to a school in America, said that bullying no longer seemed a problem at Rokeby school. He also said that lessons were faster-paced and more enjoyable.

"Before, there was a line between the pupils and the teachers. Now you can talk to them about work and about your life as well," he said.

Mark Keary, Rokeby's headteacher, said that further work could be done to improve behaviour and tackle bullying at the school but that race was not a significant cause of conflict. "Football is more likely to start arguments than anything else," he said.

Mr Keary believed pupils enjoyed classes more because the school had moved away from a "quiet-directed-lesson-with-work-sheet culture" to lessons which gave pupils more opportunity for discussion and teamwork.


London Challenge: Surveys of Pupils and Teachers 2005 is at

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