Praise for school snubbed by Blair
THE Islington school that Tony Blair decided was not good enough for his children has been awarded a clean bill of health by inspectors for the first time in more than five years.
It is a remarkable turnaround for Islington Green school, which in recent years has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Only last year, the north London school was at the centre of a court battle as a former teacher sued for constructive dismissal over alleged assaults by pupils while she was pregnant.
Former headteacher Marion Parsons decided to quit in November 2001 saying that she did not have the stamina to turn the school around.
It was first placed in special measures in 1997, but was famous well before that for its pupils' chorus of "we don't need no education" in Pink Floyd's hit Another Brick in the Wall.
Mr Blair lived in the catchment area before he became Prime Minister but sent his sons to the London Oratory school in Hammersmith and Fulham, across the capital. The Blairs' daughter attends Sacred Heart school in the same borough.
Last year, just more than a quarter of pupils (27 per cent) at Islington Green gained five or more A*-C grade GCSEs.
But on their latest visit, inspectors found that more than half of the teaching at the 1,000-pupil school, was good, very good or excellent.
Fewer than one in 14 lessons was judged unsatisfactory.
Headteacher Trevor Averre-Beeson, who took over the school last April on a salary approaching six figures, was praised by the Office for Standards in Education for his role in turning it around.
He has introduced measures to improve discipline without resorting to excluding pupils, including training for teachers, a reward system worth up to pound;20 a term for pupils to encourage attendance and an "exclusion room". This is used for children who have committed offences which in the past would have led to temporary exclusion.
They are given work to do under the supervision of senior staff. Only after three visits to the exclusion room are pupils considered for exclusion.
"It is very popular with parents and not at all popular with the children," Mr Averre-Beeson said.
Children have been more pleased with the pound;100,000 spent decorating Islington Green soon after their new head arrived. The "learning zone", a brightly decorated area stocked with art materials, beanbags and televisions, is also popular.
The zone, with a staff-pupil ratio of 1:2, is part of additional support given to around 20 Year 7 and 8 pupils who have particularly demanding educational needs.
Total temporary and permanent exclusions have fallen from 400 in the 12 months before Mr Averre-Beeson took over to just 15 per year. Two or three pupils a day have been sent to the exclusion room.
Mr Averre-Beeson previously helped turn around Mayfield school in east London. He said: "The whole atmosphere here is calmer and more pleasant.
"I was obviously aware of the school's background when I arrived but my feeling was that it was staffed with dynamic teachers.
"The school had just lost its way and needed direction."
ISLINGTON GREEN TIMELINE
1995 - Tony Blair rejects Islington Green as a school for his eldest son as Euan gets a place at the London Oratory.
1997 - Islington Green fails its inspection and is placed in special measures.
1998 - Marion Parsons appointed on a salary of around pound;70,000.
2000 - the school comes out of special measures but inspectors say it still has serious weaknesses.
2001 - only 24 per cent of pupils get five or more A*-C grade GCSEs compared to 30 per cent two years earlier. One in eight leaves without any qualifications.
2001 - Marion Parsons announces she is leaving.
2002 - court hears how poor discipline led to alleged assault on pregnant teacher.
2002 - Trevor Averre-Beeson takes over and immediately announces a one-month ban on exclusions.
2003 - Office for Standards in Education inspectors give the school a clean bill of health.