Case study;Profile;Gainsborough;Primary League tables

26th February 1999 at 00:00
GAINSBOROUGH primary school is an oasis of calm and quiet in a desert of deprived estates and decaying industrial buildings alongside the M11 in Hackney, east London.

Less than two years ago inspectors found serious weaknesses at the school and pupils' test results had sunk to rock bottom.

Only 16 per cent of 11-year-olds could read and write to the required standard while only a quarter were proficient in maths.

But since Mandy Milsom took over as head in 1997 the school has seen a rapid improvement in results. This year it was ranked among the 40 most-improving schools, with around two-thirds of 11-year-olds reaching required literacy and numeracy standards.

Ms Milsom arrived at the school as deputy head and maths co-ordinator in September 1996 and introduced the numeracy hour as part of the national pilot.

The following April, inspectors identified serious weaknesses at the school and by June she was appointed acting head.

Although much of the turnaround in the school's fortunes was achieved by the introduction of basic management structures, she credits the numeracy hour, now in its third year at Gainsborough, for revolutionising the teaching of all subjects.

She said: "Numeracy has been the lynch-pin that has introduced a totally different way of teaching and helped teachers to work with the whole class. The pilot gave us an ideal way of mobilising staff to look at how they taught."

The science results have been boosted by adopting some of the numeracy techniques.

Literacy is the next big challenge. The school is ethnically diverse and draws one in 12 of its pupils from a nearby travellers' campsite, where both literacy and attendance are problems.

Ms Milsom said: "It is easy to improve results when they are at rock bottom. Our challenge now is to maintain these standards."

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