Hilton's five-star service

9th February 2001 at 00:00
On the face of it, the odds are stacked against Hilton Lane primary.

The 240-pupil school serves a deprived area of Salford where about 10 per cent of pupils have special needs and 40 per cent are entitled to free school meals.

Yet, in last year's tests 100 per cent of 11-year-olds hit the target level in both English and maths, and 97 per cent in science. When inspectors visited in June, they described it as an "outstanding school with many strengths and no major weaknesses".

"We have not got any magic answers," said Stevie Marsh, head of the school which was awarded Beacon status in 1999. "Like everybody else we are struggling all the time to achieve high standards. It's hard work and this year we were really lucky with the cohort."

Although Mrs Marsh is wary of sounding as if she is blowing her own trumpet, inspectors remarked on her inspirational leadership and the strong team spirit among staff who are dedicated to ensuring high standrds.

Teachers aim to stretch pupils not only academically, but also socially and emotionally, with great emphasis on listening to youngsters and addressing them respectfully.

Inspectors praised the effective use of technology: the school has three interactive whiteboards and 15 state-of-the-art notebook computers.

Building strong relationships with parents has also been one of the school's key strengths.

"Our parents generally come from impoverished backgrounds - socially, culturally and financially," said Mrs Marsh, who has an open-door policy for all her parents.

"But parents always want the best for their children even if they don't always expect it. I say to them, if you work in partnership with us, I promise you that we can give you the very best."

Mrs Marsh said: "It may all sound a bit serious, but with all this paperwork you need a good sense of humour. We all enjoy a good giggle - that's what keeps us going."

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