Highs and lows of the policy's early pioneers

3rd March 2000 at 00:00
The TES looks at what the new-look Fresh Start programme will mean to the schools on the David Blunkett's hitlist

THE FRESH Start policy currently requires schools that have been on special measures for two years or more to be closed, or go through a fresh start. So far, 10 schools have gone through the process, with several others lining up to take the plunge.

Results have been mixed, and the costs of initiatives have varied. The Department for Education and Employment estimates that a Fresh Start school can expect an average of pound;1 million for capital works and pound;500,000 for other restructuring costs on top of their normal budget.

Park View Academy, formerly Langham school, north London, has received an extra pound;650,000 in the current financial year. Firfield community school (formerly Blakelaw) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, one of the first Fresh Start schools, had a fighting fund of pound;2.4m. The school featured in a Channel 4 series, but also hit the headlines hen headteacher Carol McAlpine admitted removing serial truants by getting parents to say they would educate them at home.

At another fresh start pioneer - Phoenix (previously Hammersmith) high school, London - only 4 per cent of pupils got five or more top grade GCSEs last summer, compared to 16 per cent two years previously. Headteacher William Atkinson - a model for Lenny Henry's character in last year's BBC series, Hope and Glory - said the result was a blip. More than half of the year group did not start their secondary education at the school, and just under half started unable to speak English.

Fresh start or closure is also being mooted for St George's RC comprehensive in Maida Vale, London, the failing school of murdered headteacher Philip Lawrence; and Rams Episcopal school, Hackney. The latter was the first failing school where a private company was involved in attempts to turn it around. It has been on special measures for five years.

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